Simply the West

Othello, Sheffield Crucible.

THOSE of you who have managed to get your hands on what has become the season’s golden have spent your money wisely.

Sure, Othello reunites two of the stars of American telly’s lamented cult cop hit The Wire, but that is only half of the story in Artistic Director Daniel Evans’ bright, vivid and true revival of a Shakespeare’s favourite.

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And there’s no small irony in the Sheffield accent adopted by city-born, Eton-educated Dominic West’s awesomely conspiratorial Iago opposite former Baltimore police colleague Clarke Peters.

During a handful of comical moments West sounds like a slightly camp Sean Bean, but his physicality prevails as the outwardly honest ensign, vengeful at being overlooked for promotion in favour of a dashing but pliable Cassio (Gwilyn Lee).

He maintains an inimitable presence that exudes manly playfulness but ultimately tragic menace, not least as he goes about planting seeds of suspicion and doubt in the mind of an Othello strong yet dignified in the face of opposition.

Peters, by contrast, weaves much of his natural charisma into his Othello, a warrior general with a potent reputation yet seduced by young beauty and rendered exposed and malleable in matters of love and domestic deceit.

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His rich baritone brings an amiable and exotic warmth which helps dissolve the slight inplausibility of his marriage to the smitten Desdemona, played by Lily James, a fresh-faced English rose whose character blooms beyond fragile girl in the first half to baffled, bruised soul in the second as Iago’s plotting matures and drags Othello’s destructive dilemma to the fore.

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Peters applies a blend of vulnerability and underlying fury, erupting where necessary to become fearful as he stalks and roars about the stage, although occasionally the mix of heavier African tones and rapid text can prove hard to grasp.

West is a near constant against director Evans’ cunningly-lit yet largely simple Venice/Cyprus backdrop, drawing the often hilariously hapless but fatally flawed Roderigo (a return from Crucible re-opener Enemy Of The People’s Brodie Ross), Cassio and his own wife/Desdemona’s attendant Emilia - a perfect shift from Alexandra Gilbreath - into a scheme with more twists and turns than the Snake Pass.

Evans’ is an attention-grabbing Othello that does all that is asked without frills or fancy concept, namely authenticity with room to breathe and it proves all the more stunning for it.

Othello runs until October 15.