Judge Brett Cullum found himself brushing his teeth in iambic pentameter after sitting through this account of love and betrayal staged at a historic location.
Iago: Do it with poison. Strangle her in bed, even the bed she hath contaminated.
One of Shakespeare's most enduring tragedies, Othello revolves around four main characters: the titular Moor nobleman, his beautiful wife, Desdemona, his fallible lieutenant, Cassio, and the villainous standard bearer, Iago. It is a tale that involves jealousy, racism, love, and betrayal. Othello remains a relevant piece, and it enjoys many theatrical resurrections from both professional and community theaters around the world as one of Shakespeare's most popular plays. This DVD from Kultur captures a production at the historic Globe Theatre where all of Shakespeare's plays originated. Othello is presented in this version on simplistic terms without a set but with plenty of traditional period costuming. The Globe is an outdoor venue, and there is little lighting design required or able to be used. This is as primitive and elemental as you can get, without any of the flashy technical arts of the theatre to fall back on. The production hinges on the performances to keep an audience glued for over three hours.
Luckily, the cast is up to the challenge of performing this well-known known tragedy, and that is the most compelling reason to sit down with Kultur's DVD edition, which presents a previously televised presentation. Eamonn Walker (Duma) has played the role of Othello a number of times, and his performance is fiery and competent. The actor brings dignity, grace, and the perfect energy to make you believe in the Moor's dilemma, which forces him into a murderous, jealous rage. Character actor Tim McInnerny (The Black Adder) makes Iago appropriately evil and maniacal. Zoe Tapper (The Last Van Helsing) is visually stunning as well as earnest as the doomed Desdemona. The actors make the verses move quickly, and they all have a nice intense energy that suits this staging.
Kutur's DVD is as bare bones as the production presented on it. The play is divided in two halves, and each is on its own DVD. Scenes correlate to the chapters, and there is no supplemental material. The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks fine, and there's no problem with video artifacts or pixilation. A simple stereo sound mix suits the production just fine, since all we need discern is the dialogue. Oddly enough, there are no subtitles offered, so you can't pull those up to read along or clarify what an actor is saying.
It's nice to see Othello performed without any gimmicks or stunt casting. Theatre fans and Shakespeare aficionados will be satisfied and pleased with this primal staging at a historic location. Anyone hoping for spectacle or reinvention won't find any of that in director Wilson Milam's traditional interpretation. You can see the audience reacting to the production thanks to the three-quarter thrust nature of the Globe's stage, and you feel as if you are in London right along with the ticket buyers. Othello contains a strong cast performing a classic tragedy, and for those reasons, it's a fine DVD to connect with the Bard's work.
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