Othello at the National Theatre – Review

This gripping tale of love, catastrophe and deceit brings an appearance at the National Theatre this year. Nicholas Hytner’s attention to detail shines through in this amazing production of one of Shakespeare’s most heart rendering pieces of drama.

A gritty nightclub stands centre stage as modern techno music bursts through the doors. Two men roll out in heated conversation, both tugging on cigarettes and wearing slim cut, expensive suits.

This does not seem the type of setting you would expect to see on stage as Shakespeare’s Othello is being portrayed. Although, it is in fact the opening scene to the 2013 interpretation, set during the Iraq war. Most of the action takes place inside a military compound in Cyprus. The set is cleverly manipulated throughout the play in order to make the scenery more suited to the tragedies that happen within and truly bringing Othello to the modern day. This is proven during the scene that takes places in a set of toilets where Othello takes refuge in one of the cubicles in order to spy on a conversation between Iago and Cassio.

Adrian Lester, also known as the quick-witted confidence trickster Mickey Bricks in the television series Hustle, suits the part as Othello perfectly. Asserting the quiet authority and modesty that you expect to see of Othello when the curtains open. He smiles to himself as his Othello lays down the story of how he and his wife fell in love as he relayed to her the tragedies he had faced. Yet he also moves in perfect transition with the events that unfold before him to become the blood-thirsty and jealous Moor that Othello is famous for.

Lester glows with elegance and self certification as he takes the leading role alongside Rory Kinnear, who blew the audience away with his bold version of Shakespeare’s most sinister villain Iago. Kinnears move to make the villain the slightly cheeky commoner worked well against Lester’s tone of power that he sustained throughout and the pair played off of each other right the way through until the lights went off.

Kinnear delivers all of the main lines associated with the play so smoothly that you hardly realise they have passed. His Iago brings Othello’s whole world tumbling down upon him by whispering ‘I like not that’ and leaving the deadly seed of doubt to blossom in Othello’s mind until he becomes unrecognisable. Not only this, but Kinnears Iago manages to steal a laugh from the audience as he audaciously sips a glass of water he had fetched for the unconscious Othello laying at his feet.

The rest of the cast give an astounding performance, although some characters could seem a bit false and not flow as smoothly as would be expected, maybe this is an unneeded attention to minor details but when the group of soldiers are yelling whilst playing a drinking game it slightly lacked the spontaneity that I would have liked it to have. However, the cast would understandably be rather nervous as it was only one of the first showings when I was part of the audience.

This glowing interpretation of Othello is definitely a must see and I would recommend it to anyone who is even slightly interested by Shakespeare’s work or wondering whether it is a worthy night out or not.

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