Wednesday, 11 February 2009

HOT: Othello, Royal Shakespeare Company, 291 Mare St Hackney E8 1EJ

The Royal Shakespeare Company have taken their plays on tour to London, and the travelling troupe have landed at the Hackney Empire. In a city filled with beautifully restored theatres, the Empire is still striking with its lofty gilded and ornate interior. However, in my view its traditional raised stage and far-away circle was not as effective as the RSC's own theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. And it is really far away from any useful form of public transport to West or South London.

I've never seen Othello before, so before I start, let me just warn any other first-timers that they take a long time to die - 3.5 hours of intense Shakespearean text on a school night is a hard ask. I think it's a play that rewards deep and prolonged study, and a quick scan of Wikipedia on the tube doesn't begin to scratch the surface.

In this production, I thought the stand out performance was Antony Sher's as Iago, Othello's twisted and menacing Ancient. He did fluff his line a couple of times, but he was exciting to watch (Funnily enough I recognised him from The Factory's production of Hamlet, and had thought at the time that he was a talented out-of-work actor looking for a break while pulling pints.) On the other hand, I really disliked Othello. His spitting, drawling and rolling delivery was not just light and shade, but created unnecessary melodrama which distracted me from an already dramatic text.

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