Although I saw some remarkable theatre in late March and early April in the UK – Antigone, Death of a Salesman, Man and Superman and Clarence Darrow – it was good to get back to Shakespeare. First was the all-female Othello at the Queens Theatre, from Titan Theatre Company. Steve Mentz has written a very good review on his own blog, which rightly highlights the extraordinary performance of Laura Frye as Iago.
One striking thing was that the play began with a heavily compressed version of the scene where the Duke and senators are comparing letters on the size of the Turkish fleet, then moved to about half way through the scene which begins the text of the waking of Brabantio. While this set up the wider geopolitical framing of the play very effectively, most of the rest of that aspect was cut, along with much else. This led to a very fast-paced production of about two hours, including a brief intermission. Although Othello and Iago have a similar number of lines in the written text, it certainly felt that Iago dominated. That said, one key cut to Iago’s lines was the opening speech about Cassio. A shame, because those lines explain much of the reason for the hatred and plotting to come. But overall I did really enjoy this, and the gender-switch threw some intriguing light on the text.
This was the last performance of a very short run. I’ll be going to see Othello and The Merchant of Venice in Stratford when I get back to the UK in June, but next will be Peter Sarsgaard as Hamlet in New York next week. Also debating Two Gentlemen of Verona in Brooklyn – hardly one of Shakespeare’s best, and I saw a good production in Stratford just last year, but Steve Mentz has another good review here.