I discovered, quite by chance, the National Theatre's relatively new scheme of broadcasting live theatre shows in regional cinemas. What a fabulous idea!
So, Thursday 26th September, saw me at my local cinema, sitting down to watch Othello, starring Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear, live from the National Theatre.
First let me say, I was astonished by how many people turned out for this event. Shakespeare, although it shouldn't be, is usually considered difficult and 'high-brow', but you wouldn't have guessed it from the audience footfall that night. My local Odeon devoted two screens to Othello, and they were both full. I was very impressed.
The production was modern dress, and was bang up to date, drawing obvious parallels to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of the action took place on an army base, with Iago, Cassio and Othello, even Emilia, decked out in army camouflage uniform. In a strange way, the modern setting made what happens between Othello and Iago understandable. It is easy to forget the situation of the characters in Othello; a contingent of soldiers sitting around in blistering heat, having nothing to do. Othello relies on and trusts Iago implicitly, so why wouldn't he believe him when he says his wife is having an affair?
Adrian Lester was superb as Othello, bringing out his frailty and his ruthlessness, yet still, in my opinion, not managing to truly engage our sympathy, which is how it should be. He is a murderer, after all. He blames Iago for death of Desdemona, only admitting he committed the act because of Iago's machinations. Rory Kinnear, I thought, was very good, showing Iago as someone who makes his devilish plan up as he goes along. Desdemona was actually a spirited, if hopelessly naive, young woman, rather than the goody-goody she is sometimes made out to be. The death scene was very well handled, really showing it for the brutal act it is.
All in all, a very worthwhile production, and a great way to see theatre without having to go up town. Future cinema releases include Rory Kinnear in Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein and Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus.
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