Othello (2002): Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
PRINCIPAL CAST: Lorraine Ashbourne (Emilia); Emma Darwall-Smith (Desdemona); Paterson Joseph (Othello); Joseph Murray (Cassio); Andy Serkis (Iago).
This production ran from 11 September - 2 November 2002.
"With the set restricted to a tarpaulin, a map, a sail, a bed and a rough, neutrally coloured floor, Braham Murray's minimalist production...can't be accused of over-elaborate design....The vague timelessness of the setting, with the soldierly uniforms and waterproof cape extending to the crew, opens up the stage to the service of the actors and to the text. Paterson Joseph's interpretation of Othello bursts apart at the seams in its intensity, complexity and truth. Painful to watch in his mental, emotional and physical disintegration, Joseph's jealous Moor is not only dragged down to the ground, he throws himself on it, staggers around it, squirms and rolls over it, his pent-up passion breaking with scorching vehemence from within his fragile shell of dignity and mystery. He weeps, he rages, words tumble over themselves, and spit hurtles from his lips....The pace throughout is fast, the military men strut and stamp and shout but aren't afraid to speak quietly, too, and in its honest approach to the irrevocable unravelling of a dark domestic tragedy, this Othello will not disappoint." ~ Lynne Walker, "A minimalist but moving Moor", Independent, 25 September 2002.
"Johanna Bryant's spartan design, characterised by ropes, pulleys and tarpaulin, suggests with admirable economy the deprivations of a soldier's existence. In this setting, Paterson Joseph's warm, courteous Othello is very much an outsider. His natural nobility and gentleness seems at odds with his rank as a naval general and set him apart from his men almost as much as does the colour of his skin. He meets racist abuse with dignified restraint, his only gesture of impatience a weary roll of the eyes. And when he speaks of wooing Desdemona, he is moved almost to tears, his words so full of tenderness that it's not difficult to see why she fell for him." ~ Sam Marlowe, The Times, 18 September 2002, in Theatre Record XXII, Issue 19.
"The brilliance - and bravery - of Paterson Joseph's magisterial account of the Moor comes from the bold manner in which he portray's Othello's culpability as a reversion to his natural self. To begin with, he is the embodiment of self-possessed charm, virtually singing the lines at a melliflous mezzo-voce. Yet he makes a staggering gesture at the line: 'All my fond love do I thus blow to heaven,' as if kissing away his cultured persona, hunkering down into an ugly knuckle-swinging posture and modulating his purr to a growl to evoke 'black vengeance from the hollow hell'." ~ Alfred Hickling, The Guardian, 18 September 2002.
"Othello himself is mostly played as a black icon: a great lord, a regal tribal chieftan, a shrewd, cautious outsider whom the senate needs but also stands somewhat in awe of. Paterson Joseph plays him as what he actually is: a professional soldier to his fingertips, a trim, compact figure, a cool, methodical, straightforward, punctilious officer to whom double dealing is totally alien. In the early scenes, the clipped military delivery plays brilliantly against the resounding verse with a cunning sense of emotional undercurrents. All this makes Othello's disintegration both crushing and pathetic. Observe Joseph: how, as his suspicions deepen, the confidence goes out of his very walk and his bearing takes on a touch of civility. Othello's occupation is gone indeed. This is a wonderful performance, matched by Andy Serkis's Iago..." ~ John Peter, Sunday Times, 29 September 2002.
"Emma Darwall-Smith's Desdemona falls just short of tragic poignancy, and the vaguely modern costumes are a mishmash. No matter though when Serkis and Joseph are so riveting a duo. The latter starts off an innately dignified, warmly confident soldier. But clearly needled deep down by his father-in-law's racist slurs, his later explosion of marital insecurity and violent insanity is devastatingly convincing. Potent stuff." ~ Kate Bassett, Independent on Sunday, 27 October 2002, in Theatre Record XXII, Issue 21.