Shakespeare’s Othello at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Before it’s but a dim and distant memory, a quick word about the RSC’s recent production of Othello, which ended its run last month. The Telegraph described it as “Electrifying. It feels as though history is in the making”, and there was real a sense of that.
It was certainly a stoke of genius to cast Lucian Msamati as a black Iago. This put a completely different spin on the story, with Iago’s revenge-lust spurred by factors other than simple racism. Msamati’s performance was exceptional too, revelling in his character’s deviousness, toying with the audience during his soliloquies, a crazed puppet master with a pitch-perfect persona for every occasion.
Hugh Quarshie’s take on Othello was suave but intense, his insecurities bubbling beneath his proud martial exterior. And he had a real on-stage chemistry with Joanna Vanderham’s confidently sexy Desdemona — you could almost feel the heat between them.
The production’s experimentation and extemporisation worked beautifully. We had some amusing rapping, a moving African folk song, and a disturbing waterboarding scene. Handled less deftly, these could have been distractions, but here they really added another dimension, a credit to director Iqbal Khan.
The storytelling was compelling, the ensemble playing was faultless, but Msamati stole the show. After all, the devil has the best tunes.
It’s all over now, but you can still buy a CD of the fantastic music and speeches here.