There is always something to delight in during a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe, and the thing I enjoyed most last week was looking at Cassio whenever the opportunity arose (he was really rather attractive).
Well, Cassio was almost the thing I enjoyed most. The play was good, but not up to the usual Globe standard. If you have never been to Shakespeare’s Globe, there is nothing like it for seeing Shakespeare. The Globe was the theatre Shakespeare owned a share in during his lifetime, and it was rebuilt a few years ago a short distance from its original location on the banks of the Thames. As the original Globe would have been built, the new theatre was constructed using only wood and thatch – even the nails used to hold the walls up are wooden! The whole thing is beautiful, and the plays are done with minimal use of props, usually in full Elizabethan costume and since the theatre has no roof, in the open air. There is also a house band, if you will, who wear Elizabethan dress and play Elizabethan tunes on Elizabethan instruments and are generally greatly loved by the audience (they tend to be a bit cheeky).
But back to Othello; The Observer raved about how Tim McInnerny (Lord Percy from Blackadder) was ‘brilliantly cast’ as Iago, but as far as I could see, there was a lot of shouting and semi-energetic dashing about the stage and no real passion behind his character. Not badly done, but unremarkable. One of the things I love about plays at the Globe is the way the audience is always drawn into the play, whether through sneaky asides from the characters or by having to leap back as someone on stage sloshes wine or blood about freely in the general direction of the standing audience (Titus Andronicus last year was bloody brilliant, emphasis on the bloody). McInnerny had so many opportunities to make more of his role and really make Iago real for the audience, but he failed to do so. Perhaps he thought if he tried to bring humour into the play by involving the audience it would be too reminiscent of Lord Percy, his character in Blackadder – although I think that would have been rather funny myself. Desdemona on the other hand, was excellent – some actors/actresses have the ability to completely become a character and make you feel everything they feel and see their passions, and Desdemona was very adept at doing so. The performance overall wasn’t overtly bad, but it dragged a little at times. My personal feeling is that Othello took far too long over killing Desdemona and lost a lot of dramatic tension as a result.
Some Othello trivia: I learned that the phrase ‘green eyed monster’ has been around for longer than I gave it credit for (never having given it much consideration before now); Othello is ironically warned by Iago to “beware my Lord, of jealousy; it is the green eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”
Here is a link to the Globe’s Othello page. The photos at the top of the page are 1) Iago and Desdemona, 2) Cassio and Bianca and 3) Othello about to kill Desdemona.