Posts Tagged ‘Lyndsey Marshall’

I was so excited about two of my favourite actors cast as Othello (Adrian Lester) and Iago (Rory Kinnear), heightened by seeing Lester play Ira Aldridge play Othello in Red Velvet at the Tricycle last year, there was a big risk of disappointment. The surprise turns out to be  how much else I loved about Nicholas Hytner’s production and how the exciting casting didn’t overshadow it at all. This is one of the best Othello’s I’ve ever seen, and one of the best modern settings of Shakespeare.

After the initial scenes in Venice, we are propelled to a hyper-realistic army camp in Cyprus, brilliantly designed by Vicki Mortimer. As soon as you get into the rhythm of the verse, this is a contemporary thriller, not a 400-year-old play. It builds brilliantly and draws you in to the story of power, jealousy and revenge. About the only implausibility in a contemporary world is that it all rests on a handkerchief!

The racism Othello is subjected to struck me more than ever. Iago seems much more complex here than I’ve ever felt before. The scene where the authorities decide to send Othello to Cyprus could be a cabinet meeting at the outset of the Iraq war. In the barrack room, the soldiers play drinking games and get drunk, as they would. Ludovico arriving by helicopter rather than ship makes complete sense. This is intelligent rather than gimmicky, though perhaps Roderigo as Prince William is a little tongue in cheek! From the moment that Othello takes Iago’s bait (in the gents!) it unfolds like the best thrillers.

Neither Lester nor Kinnear disappoint and compare favourably with my other Othello’s, from Ben Kingsley (when it was acceptable!) to Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Iago’s, from Ian McKellen to Ewan McGregor. Lyndsey Marshall as a soldier Emilia is the best interpretation of this role I’ve ever seen. In a distinctly unstarry company, there is fine support from William Chubb as Brabantio and Nick Sampson as Ludovico, amongst others.

I think I enjoyed this even more than any of the other Hytner Olivier Shakespeare’s and at the end I was desperately hoping his departure as AD won’t mean its the last.

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When you’re passionate about a subject, you can become evangelical to ‘spread the word’ and have the opposite effect i.e. put people off rather than turn them on. Such is Greenland, a play about climate change (with a dreadfully corny title) at the NT. A cross between Enron and one of those verbatim plays like The Power of Yes in the same theatre, but nowhere near as effective as either.

Before it starts, there’s a man with a microphone at a round table in the foyer trying very hard to generate a debate amongst a crowd who look as if they regret that the rather good Colombian band have stopped playing. As you leave he’s still there, now getting even less interest form an audience badly in need of a pee and a glass of house red; embarrassing.

There are four playwrights and a dramaturg credited. There are four narrative threads woven together (one from each writer?). Only one really comes to life. There’s the rather patronising one about the ambitions of a black London youth who goes on Deal or No Deal, another about a young girl’s journey as an eco activist, a third about a Cambridge geography student who becomes an ornathologist, and the one that works about the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen. There are other seeming pointless bits about disagreements between some neighbours and a completely unnecessary love affair. It’s 120 uninterrupted minutes (I think they might have dropped the interval during previews for obvious reasons!).

Director Bijan Sheibani and designer Bunny Christie have thrown the kitchen sink at it (in an attempt to bring it to life?). There’s an airline staff dance routine and numerical back projections which owe a lot to Enron (in which the dramaturg was involved!), and an ending straight out of Slava’s Snowshow (though they’re probably all too young to remember this). There’s a curtain of rain at the front of the stage, girls flying in supermarket trolleys and descending on ropes, a very realistic polar bear, flashing lights, loud music and crash bang wallops. Even if they do recycle the vast quantities of paper used, there’s something distasteful about its use…….and they have class acts like Amanda Lawrence and Lyndsey Marshall in the cast.

I didn’t learn much; I would have got more googling ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ for a couple of hours. As it’s at the NT, I suspect they are preaching to the converted like me. Any sceptics in the audience who stayed for the duration are unlikely to be turned and may well have been hardened by the relentless earnestness of it all. Despite the box of tricks, it was actually dull.

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