Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Othello by William Shakespeare, Rose Theatre, Kingston, 25-Apr-2009 – Directed by Barrie Rutter

In spite of the fact that Lenny Henry has mastered and impressed in dramatic roles on TV before, it was difficult, in this play, not to see his comic persona coming through. However I think it was more that I was recognising very familiar mannerisms and tones of voice that would often presage a joke or a laugh, rather than Lenny Henry doing anything wrong. It could well be that someone unfamiliar with his work would reckon that his performance was very good. And other than my brain expecting jokes around the corner, my only real complaint about his performance was a feeling that he was isolated (especially when surrounded by others) from the rest of the cast – he didn't quite seem to be part of the team. Of course Othello is meant to be an outsider but I felt it was more his own separation from the cast rather than his character's. It's as if the cast was a unit and he wasn't part of it. As ever this could all be imagined on my part, I don't think it is deliberate and definitely doesn't indicate any tension backstage. He wants to be part of the team, the cast and crew want him to be part of the team, I just think he wasn't quite there and I'm probably making mountains out of molehills.
It's a shame to have doubts because in the final scenes I forgot about Lenny Henry and saw just Othello – he was powerful and convincing. He wasn't quite Chiwetel Ejiofor who is my benchmark of Othello perfection but he was certainly bears comparison to some of the other half-dozen Othellos I've seen.
Of the other cast members I particularly liked Conrad Nelson as Iago (in spite of his uniform which had a slight air of old-time cinema usher about it), Jessica Harris's Desdemona (even if the line Desdemona, If Only You Had Spoken kept popping into my head in the last scenes, and Maeve Larkin's Emilia.



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