I’m going to write something about the production of Othello that I saw at Stratford. Life keeps interfering….
No one had to play the race card in the new Stratford production of Othello. Shakespeare wrote it in, and it plays easily. Some of the greatest actors of our (well, my) time have played the Moor, like Lawrence Olivier, John Gielgud, Anthony Hopkins (a film), Orson Welles (yes!) and—the first black one—Paul Robeson ((as early as 1930). There’s a list in Wikipedia (of course) of actors who have played Othello, and the more recent ones are all black. Talk about colour-blind casting; it doesn’t work the other way. No one ever casts white actors in the play for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf. So, today, no white actor is even considered to play Othello. Fortunately, there are some very good actors available to play…the race card? Michael Blake is one of them. He played Coriolanus last year at Stratford and he’s also playing Mr. Page in The Merry Wives of windsor this year, no problem with colour-blindness. No argument there. He is a very good actor.
And so is Gordon S.Miller, who plays Iago, judging by the roles he has played and the awards he has won. I didn’t like his Iago. I mean, of course, no one likes Iago - such a villain! But I thought he started too heavy. If a liar is going to fool people It seems to me he should start more credibly, like a a rough, blunt talker, and let the audience learn who and what he is. Maybe Mr. Miller played it too broadly for the sake of the audience, comprised mainly of students, out for their Stratford field trip on a weekday afternoon in June. Well, they got it. They were increasingly responsive in their negative reactions until at the curtain calls (so to speak), they booed more than they applauded when Mr. Miller took his bows. I’m nitpicking.
I’m not a paid reviewer or professional critic, just a Shakespeare groupie who has seen a lot of his plays and who has developed an idiosyncratic approach to her viewing.So, briefly, because it’s time for me to swim, I thought the set design was marvellous, and the modern camo-uniforms effective, if somewhat disappointing. It made sense that three women were soldiers in those uniforms because women are in the military now. But the woman who played Emilia (Laura Condlin) was very good and I should like to have seen her in mufti. That’s just me. On the other hand, Desdemona ((Amelia Sargisson) wears civilian clothes, but nothing frilly or prissy as in period vintage costumes. Her contemporary dressing made possible a stronger portrayal, though I should like to have seen her die in a nightgown or even PJs rather than Fruit of the Loom briefs. Ah well, I am a playgoer who doesn’t love wisely.