Throwback - Othello (NT Live)

Theatre on film, is it a good or a bad idea? Well, before I attended my first NT Live screening last week I wasn’t sure what I thought of the idea, but on reflection I can’t believe I ever had doubts.

So firstly, let’s talk about Othello as a play. If you haven’t read it then I won’t spoil it, because it is a play that you simply must read! There are so many twists and turns that a short synopsis could never do it justice! However just to give you some context, here is the plot overview as given by the Nation Theatre…

 “Othello, newly married to Desdemona who is half his age, is appointed leader of a military operation to defend Cyprus from the Turks. Iago, his ensign, passed over for promotion in favour of young Cassio, persuades Othello that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair.”

I think the first thing I need to mention is that this particular performance was staged in a modern setting, with the soldiers wearing modern soldier costumes and the civilians all sporting some fetching chinos and boat shoes (clearly an attempt at contemporary clothing, however the effect was laughably ‘hipstery’. I expected to see Desdemona tweeting pictures of herself with a Starbucks against the backdrop of a Cyprian warzone at some points, however, this particular scene never materialised). That’s not to say that the staging doesn’t work well. It does. In fact, I think the fact that it works so well demonstrates the ability of Shakespearean texts to stand the test of time, and also the genius mind of Director Nicholas Hytner. The characters seemed perfectly at home in the contemporary setting, and the issues that the text addresses complemented this setting too.

Now, time to discuss the cast, possibly the most important element of a performance. In the particular production I was most excited to see Rory Kinnear, a favourite actor of mine, take on the sinister role of treacherous Iago. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Kinnear’s brilliantly creepy Iago is the best I’ve ever seen. Even when he’s not talking his presence is still felt. As for Adrian Lester, I believe this was a role that he was born to play! He captivates the audience and embodies everything that Othello is! Jonathan Bailey and Lyndsey Marshal are also notable in their roles as Cassio and Emilia respectively!

Of course the production was wonderful, as one would expect of the National Theatre in its 50th year. I honestly have no real negative points to this production; it was exactly what I hoped for in a production of this fantastic play. Spectacular!