Star rating – 8/10
Othello is considered to be one of the great Shakespearean tragedies, but this cautionary tale of jealousy and deception is playing at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in part as a comedy, which feels a little strange but really works well. This production is attracting critical acclaim and large crowds, in large part due to ‘The Wire’ reunion double act of Dominic West and Clarke Peters.
Overall it is an accomplished version, with a stripped down set and superb lighting which set the action off wonderfully. West cleverly chooses to use a very proficient Yorkshire accent for the part of evil arch manipulator Iago for his home town return. His accent was authentic, but was spoilt, especially in the first half of this marathon three and a quarter hour play, by a few obvious line fluffs. I cannot imagine how taxing it must be to play this part twice in one day as the actors do here on a Saturday, but I do expect more from such an experienced thespian. Fluffs aside, he was great as he manipulated, lied and deceived his way to plot the downfall of his boss Othello.
Clarke Peters was good as the trusting Moor, who is blinded by his trust in his deputy, and his excessive love for his wife; the beautiful and equally naive Desdemona. In contrast to West, the issue I had with Peters’ performance was not his proficiency, but his accent. He started off with a very heavy Caribbean lilt, which seemed to markedly soften as the drama unfolded. But in neither guise was his diction very audible, which was a great shame as in every other way I thought he made a perfect Othello. In would have been better if director Daniel Evans had asked him to play it in his own natural accent.
As in so many of Shakespeare’s plays, the parts for women are not a patch on those of their male counterparts, but Lily James is excellent as Desdemona, and Alexandra Gilbreath as Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s maid Emilia, is absolutely wonderful, wringing every ounce of potential out of the relatively short stage time she has.
It is a great production, but possibly needed to be a little less conscious of the fact of having such two star players involved in it, and helping them to achieve both their own, and this wonderful play’s true dramatic status.