DVD Review: Othello, Shakespeare’s Globe

“And what’s he then that says I play the villain?When this advice is free I give and honest”

My first Othello was just last month with the Crucible’s extraordinary production which was rather breath-takingly good, so I was a little trepidatious about putting on this DVD on the Globe’s take on the play from 2007. Wilson Milam directed this rather traditional production but I was still rather keen to see an alternative version, especially once I’d found out that it contained John Stahl and Sam Crane in its ensemble.

Given how strong the four central characters were in Sheffield, I was quite surprised, and pleased, at how good I (mostly) found the four actors here to be, offering different but equally effective takes on the roles and demonstrating the malleability of Shakespeare’s text when in the right hands. Eamonn Walker’s Othello is a strident beast, most definitely a warrior though with hints of vulnerability which Zoë Tapper’s astoundingly accomplished Desdemona is clearly attracted to and thoroughly won over by. He perhaps could have worked in a little more charisma into his performance and his verse speaking didn’t always feel quite so natural, but this was mainly in comparison to Tapper whose luminosity shone through onstage, through every move she made and word she spoke, truly breaking the heart as the betrayals kick in. It feels a crime that she hasn’t done more stage work.

Tim McInnerny made an unlikely Iago at first sight, but it soon revealed itself to be a fairly canny piece of casting as it showed how easily the darkest deception can be hidden under the guise of familiarity. His ease of manner and affability creates the perfect foil for his machinations, the Glove crowd responding well (almost too well at times) to his villainry: it is simply done but proves effectual here. And I doubt anyone will ever reach the dizzying heights of Alexandra Gilbreath’s Emilia for me, but Lorraine Burroughs came pretty close, her interpretation a little more jagged, a little more earthy and ultimately a little more harrowing in the painful final scene.

Overall it came across as a serious, good production and one which benefitted from a lack of frippery or distracting interpretations: just Shakespeare delivered with clarity (for the most part) and a respectful vision. John Stahl pleased as Brabantio and although an incredibly fresh-faced Sam Crane had a bare chin (did ever a man look so much better with a beard?!) his Roderigo was rather well played, making me rather enjoy the broad Globe comedy of which I am not usually a fan.

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