Othello (1998): New Victoria Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme
PRINCIPAL CAST: Lucy Briers (Desdemona); Ewen Cummins (Othello); Chris Garner (Cassio); Janice McKenzie (Emilia); Tom Watt (Iago).
This production ran from 5 - 28 November 1998.
"This is a strong, clear but heavy-footed modern-dress production. Three hours and 40 minutes are too long for this play. What Gwenda Hughes, the Vic's new artistic director, out to do is to call a rehearsal and say, 'Right, let's play this without cutting a word and without gabbling, but 20 minutes shorter. Fewer pauses. More drive.' It is terrific to hear the text so clearly and intelligently spoken and so accurately accented, but some of the life is missing from it. This play needs speed, a sense of things being unstoppable. The acting is a mixed bag. Tom Watt could have been a more threatening Iago if he had spoken with a bit more energy; and there is a good, credulous Roderigo from John Feehan. Lucy Briers is a very English Desdemona, pleasant but rather prim; between her and Ewen Cummins's sturdy Othello there is no sexual electricity, only a sense of affectionate camaraderie. Cummins is dressed like an officer of the paratroops, but he seems slow and stolid: Signals, I'd guess, or Supplies. For the first time ever, the final death scene left me quite unmoved." ~ John Peter, Sunday Times: Culture, 15 November 1998
"New Vic artistic director Gwenda Hughes says Othello is 'a very modern play' that perfectly suits this production's 20th-century setting. She cites the issue of race: the shock of mixed marriage and its associated pressures and tensions, and the idea, unquestioned in 16th-century England, of equating black with evil, which Shakespeare turned on its head with Iago....Hughes's production resists the temptation to make cosutmes and props up to the minute. 'No one has Walkmans or mobile phones. It's more just a general sense of being in the 20th century,' she says, 'with the set having a sort of bombed-out look, reminiscent of images of such places as Beirut.'" ~ Ann Fitzgerald, "Moor à la mode", Times Educational Supplement, 13 November 1998.