Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Othello: Dominic West and his Pants Knob

I will fully admit the reason I went all the way to Sheffield England was to see Dominic West as Iago in Othello. West's costar from The Wire, Clarke Peters, was to be Othello.  I missed West in Rock and Roll and Butley so this was my chance to see him on stage and Sheffield was not far from Manchester so in my tour of English regional theaters this worked out quite well.  In fact, this was the last weekend of Othello so I grabbed a front row ticket (I like to see the actors sweat--also I am totally blind). 

Because I bought a ticket without much additional thought, I failed to learn until I was looking at the program that Daniel Evans, star of the Menier Chocolate Company's Sunday in the Park with George, was the artistic director of the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and the director of this production.  He's also going to be starring in Company in November (maybe my favorite musical)!  I really wish I could see his Bobby. 

Crucible Theatre in Sheffield

The stage at the Crucible is nearly in the round (seats on three sides) with a thrust stage.  I was curious how this was going to work with the blocking.  For the most part it was fine, every once in a while I missed an actor's reaction or lost a little of the sound.

I have never seen Othello on stage.  But I found this production developed a lot more humor than I was expecting in the piece.  West's Iago was played as a bloke from the English countryside (Yorkshire if my ear is correct--though it probably is not), whereas Peters put on an "exotic" accent for Othello's outsider Moor. 

Peters seemed to have a hard time holding onto the accent and I wasn't sure exactly where his Moor was from.  I did not find him a very commanding presence either.  He was not physically imposing or vocally imposing.  It was hard to believe he was a powerful general.  His descent into paranoia was one of the least successful aspects of this production.  But it turns out Othello is not on stage in "Othello" all that much. 

West was riveting.  His Iago was down to earth and believable.  His journey from being passed over on a job promotion to full-on manipulator to murder actually came across as very natural.  He was compelling and charming in his villainy but not  actually smooth.  I really think the choice to make him a local bloke made the performance much more dynamic.  His relationship with his wife worked well in the context of him being a working class guy and her being the lady's maid to Desdemona.  He was gruff, abusive, and yet sexy. 

I liked Gwilym Lee as the goodly Cassio. The scene where he is tricked into a fight was well staged and he made Cassio sympathetic and yet foppish all at the same time.   I have seen Lee in King Lear with Derek Jacobi and Hamlet with Jude Law.  He was a memorable as the good son Edgar in King Lear.  I don't recall his Laertes in Hamlet.  I found the Jude Law production to be a bit stiff and boring--Hamlet without passion (kind of shocking considering how much passion Law brought to Indiscretions when on Broadway).

Desdemona was whiny.  Whatevs.  It's hard to find a Shakespearean lady I like (Tara Fitzgerald as Ophelia remains my favorite--finding a strength in that character that I never knew was there).

I really wish this production would come to NY though maybe it would only work at Lincoln Center.  The direction and staging on a thrust stage made it all the more absorbing--it felt as if action was happening all around me and it kept the scenes moving and active.  I will admit that usually there is a point in most Shakespeare plays where I get a little bored.  But here I was really on the edge of my seat and enjoyed being led into this story by a great case.  I thought this was the best Shakespeare production on my trip.

Oh... the pants knob.  Yeah...the costumes all had these crotch knobs sticking out of them.  I am sure they were some sort of actually period piece but let's face it, it's a little distracting...or engaging depending on who you are.  I mean I was probably going to look at Dominic West's crotch anyway but thanks costume lady for helping point the way.

1 comment:

  1. They are called cod pieces ;-) Nothing to do with fish.