Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
 

 

PAVED, ALAS, WITH GOOD INTENTIONS

 

picture - OthelloDVD Review

by Harvey Perr

published April 4, 2008

 

Othello

released by Kultur International Films

running time 195 minutes

 

Kultur is dedicated to bringing great performances of international opera, ballet, and theater to DVD and only a churl would ask them to ever cease doing just that. I will always remember with great affection the countless hours of pleasure they have given not only me, but so many of my friends and acquaintances as well. Anyone seeking a bit of culture in their living room – as a relief from nothing but movies – embraces Kultur’s passion. If one doesn’t hold a special place in his or her heart for this vast display of artistic achievement, then one should. That said, one can’t help wondering why Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Production of William Shakespeare’s Othello ever made the grade.

 

The configuration of the Globe itself renders it nigh impossible to contain the play and keep the audience out of view of the camera. And though there is a certain charm in seeing a contemporary audience in t-shirts and jeans engrossed in a production of Shakespeare’s great play, it is also, unfortunately, an annoying distraction. This is not helped by the boisterous, rambunctious style director Wilson Milam brings to the play (directed for television by Derek Bailey) which turns the first act into a kind of frat house comedy with Tim McInnerny’s Iago played as a clownish oaf who could never convince any sensible person that anything he insinuates has any intrinsic value.  That it makes Sam Crane’s well-played but nevertheless buffoonish Roderigo absolutely ridiculous is bad enough, but this lapse, in turn, transmutes Eamonn Walker’s Othello into a prize fool for believing Iago’s lies. Only Walker’s innate dignity keeps him from losing our sympathy for him.

 

The only reason to see this – after all, breathes there a production of any Shakespeare play that doesn’t have its privileged moments? – are the exquisite performances of Zoe Tapper’s limpidly lovely Desdemona and Lorraine Burrough’s savvy Emilia; the scenes between them possess a magic and poetry that the rest of this crowd-pleasing production could use much more of. In retrospect, it is hard to imagine that the same director could have been responsible for these eloquent interpretations and, at the same time, to have imagined the rest of the play so crudely.  But in fairness, if one trusts the review excerpts on the back of the DVD cover, this is a minority opinion.

 

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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