This afternoon's entertainment was the very fine National Theatre production of Othello, featuring Adrian Lester as the titular Moor, Rory Kinnear as Iago, Olivia Vinall as Desdemona and Lyndsey Marshal as Emilia. The tragedy is played out in a modern setting, with all but one act played out in an army garrison in Cyprus. This allows the cast to meddle with the pent-up frustrations of service personnel with too much time and not enough warfare on their hands - time to fret and bicker, and to doubt one another's loyalty.
The cast are uniformly excellent. Lester and Kinnear work well together, with Lester offering a noble Moor of bearing and great emotional range, and Kinnear's Iago is a rough-spoken commoner who exults in the revenge of his most cruel deception. The versatile and wispy Vinall portrays the demands for Cassio's reinstatement coquettishly, but also shows Desdemona's anguish and growing panic as Iago's lies ruin her love-match with Othello. I had forgotten the extent of Iago's wife Emelia's role, and in this Marshal offers a steely portrayal of a misused pawn in a husband's Machiavellian plot.
The NT's stage design is superb, with sliding prefab sets emerging and reconfiguring seemingly effortlessly into wardrooms, bedchambers, offices, and even the officers' bathrooms. It was a pleasure to see the film screening here in Wellington; it's just a pity that we have to wait nearly a month after the live broadcast to see it. The everyday curse of a far-flung colony.
Theatre: NTLive The Audience, 14 July 2013
Theatre: NTLive This House, 17 June 2013
Blog: Stratford-upon-Avon, 24 February 2010