Never was there a tale of more woe than that of Iago and O-thell-o.
Ok, so I’m paraphrasing from Romeo and Juliet, but what makes this tale of perfidy and manipulation so much more of a tragedy than that of the Bards star crossed lovers, is Othellos blind faith in Iago, who turns out to be a self-serving duplicitous Machiavelli incapable of remorse.
Part of the Globes new summer season, Othello tells the tale of love turned bad by unfounded jealously. Othello, the Moor of Venice, is a noble soul, his only fault is trusting of Iago. But Iago turns backstabber when Othello chooses Cassio to be is lieutenant over him and, to wreak his revenge, he makes Othello believe his wife Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio.
Othello’s ill-placed trust in the nefarious Iago results in his growing suspicion, which leads him to strangle Desdemona while she lies sleeping.
By rights this Shakespearian tragedy should be renamed Iago, after the self-serving puppetmaster who directs all action towards its bitter and bloody end, as Tim McInnernys Iago is truly unmissable.
Better known for playing Black Adders Captain Darling, McInnerny is no longer a blundering buffoon but a canny manoeuvrer motivated by jealousy, pecuniary greed and resentment, a man who gets a kick out of planting suspicion and peddling suggestion.
Eamonn Walker takes the title role. His performance is a blend of Othello the righteous man and an Othello consumed by the Green-Eyed Monster. Eaten up by anger and fury, his uncontrollable jealousy terrified the Groundlings, all teeth-gnashing and near-epileptic convulsing.
This despair and anguish is only sated by Desdemonas death and then his remorse is just as great as his need was for revenge.
Zoe Tapper is excellent as the sweet, gentle Desdemona. Her beguiling simplicity is juxtaposed brilliantly with the more worldly-wise Aemilia, her maid servant and Iagos wife, when half in earnest, half in jest they talk about the disposition of women the world over to their husbands. Aemila, played by Lorraine Burroughs, (last seen by this reviewer in the execrable The War Next Door), puts in a performance that proves given the right script and peerless direction, by Wilson Milam, that she is an actor of consderable talent and poise.
Sam Cranes Roderigo, a wealthy Venetian who bankrupts himself to engage Iago as a go-between to woo Desdemona, is also one of this production’s triumphs. Crane is superlative as the effete swooning lover. Although more mouse than man and more loser than lothario, his only real fault is that he fell into Iagos web and believed he could trust him.
Shakespeare knew every inch of the human heart, from the soaring highs of romantic love to the bitter resentments and jealousies that entrap us from time to time. Othellos honesty makes him vulnerable, he is taken advantage of in the most despicable of ways and that is the tragedy: when a good man gets duped because he chooses to “love not wisely but too well.”