British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database
Othello (1984): Young Vic Theatre
PRINCIPAL CAST: David Calder (Iago); Kate Fahy (Desdemona); Alison Peebles (Emilia); Brian Protheroe (Cassio); Rudolph Walker (Othello).
This production ran from 3 May - 16 June 1984.
In Rudolph Walker, the production cast the first black Othello in London in twenty years and what the programme notes and press release noted was only the fourth time a black actor had played Othello in London.
"One thing is certain: the Young Vic has put its days of lightweight, or simply dutiful, Shakespeare production firmly behind it. Its new director, David Thacker, flings down the gauntlet with an unashamedly political modern-dress Othello...'Iago's invasion of Othello's "tranquil mind" is a triumph of imperialism.' The programme note puts it at its worst, but in this world of smooth staff-officers in khaki there is no problem about Iago's discontent: losing out in a class-ridden promotion structure where Othello is only tolerated out of national necessity...Mr. Calder's natural, easy way with the words is shared by the whole cast; you could be watching a nastily convincing TV play about mess-rooms in Northern Ireland. The problems come when Rudolph Walker faces Othello's big tragic and poetic flights. In any case, how much is his self-doubt on which Iago plays, rooted merely in his blackness?" ~ Anthony Masters, "Fulfilment of a grand project', The Times, 12 May 1984
"Iago's dark and malevolent purpose clearly takes on a deeper racial meaning when the Moor is seen to fall into a genuinely black rage. Rudolph Walker - the first black Othello on the London stage for some 20 years - demonstrates right from the outset at the Young Vic the advantages of physical authenticity. In David Thacker's modern dress production the General becomes on a superficial level at least a vulnerable instrument of white man's military imperialism, though as the play works its power, this element falls away....Mr. Walker's handsome Moor is without doubt a mercenary ill-at-ease in the world that calls upon his services as a soldier. He displays a heavy yet loose-limbed muscular power that marks him out as distinct from those surrounding him. He possesses, too, a life squeezing hand-grip and a voice that either drops into deep agonised groans of grief or almost disappears into the anguished squeals of a mortally wounded animal." ~ Keith Nurse, "Othello meets Green Beret", Daily Telegraph, 14 May 1984
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