WORTH A LOOK?: ****
RUN TIME: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)
WHEN?: 28/7, press night 1/8, runs to 13/10/18
Sir Ian McKellen once told us that this Shakespeare tragedy should really be called Iago and Rylance’s performance in that role here might shock.
Directed by his wife Claire van Kampen, Rylance’s Iago (pictured above) is exploiting the complicity of the audience in his duplicity and earning laughs as a result.
We learn early that he has been passed over for promotion and, because the audience knows that as a result he is conspiring to drive a wedge between Othello (Moonlight‘s Andre Holland, standing out because his American accent is the only one in the cast) and the innocent Desdemona (Jessica Warbeck, pulling at the heartstrings), his dishonesty is so blatant that it does amuse, at least initially.
Jealousy is Othello’s weakness and Iago stirs the ‘green-eyed monster’ within him with the suggestion that Aaron Pierre’s physical Cassio is wooing his wife.
Sheila Atim in her 1st role since winning an Olivier in the Old Vic’s production of Girl From the North Country is a revelation as Iago’s wife Emilia and her realisation at how she has been played in this fun production is surpassed only by her moving song at its close.
van Kampen is both director and composer and other highlights here are the musical interludes not least when the cast celebrates drunkenly with revels including dancing, notably with Rylance even kicking up his legs and shaking his booty joyously.
Rylance even plays a ukulele (we think) and sings as spirits soar during an uproarious song and dance number in the first half.
It’s an unusually upbeat production then for one of Shakespeare’s most revered tragedies which makes the story’s climax all the more hard-hitting.
You may go to see Rylance but it’s Atim whose journey will move you most.