Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 21 Nov
Guy Hollands’ production of the Bard’s tragedy of racial hatred, jealousy and betrayal is a stripped-back version, starkly lit, with minimal staging, that returns the focus squarely to Shakespeare’s language. Thus, the most successful moments come about in the quieter scenes, the soliloquies, and the intimate two-handers. The scenes in which the duplicitous ensign Iago (Andy Clark) provokes and inflames the Moor’s (Jude Akuwudike) latent jealousy are particularly effective, while the pervading sense of quiet foreboding really comes into its own in the bedroom scenes between Desdemona (Sarah Howden) and Emilia (Pauline Knowles) prior to Dedemona’s murder. Howden brings engaging warmth and feistiness to the role of the doomed heroine, while Clark, as the villain, deftly manages the shifts between scheming fanatical thug and avowedly honest, loyal friend.
Overall, though, there’s too little variety in pace here, with even the ensemble scenes being muted and sombre. The cast generally underplays, with the exception of Akuwudike, who gives a huge performance as the Moor. While underlining Othello’s ‘outsider’ status, this contrast effects an incongruity that requires an adjustment on the part of the audience whenever the tragic hero appears onstage.