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Othello

Kibble Palace, Glasgow
3 stars
Othello is one of Shakespeare’s more puzzling plays. Is the Moor general wedded to Desdemona a victim of institutionalised racism? Or is Iago’s obsessive ire and calculated power-playing motivated by the kind of irrational jealousy that afflicts any schemer in high office when faced with a sexy, incorruptible and charismatic boss? Either way, the murderous result is the same.

Director Gordon Barr’s latest contribution to this year’s Bard In The Botanics season doesn’t really explore either route in any depth. Rather, it plays the text faithfully enough to reveal a lot of angry men, but never explains how they worked themselves up into such a state. It’s strong enough to survive such a one-dimensional approach, so it’s revealed as a straight, no-frills political thriller.

Maybe that’s enough. Because, watching Paul Cunningham’s Iago take advantage of the highly-strung paranoia of military relationships conducted by an ‘outsider’ such as Othello, an all too familiar culture of Machiavellian spin is laid bare. The contemporary power-dressing and use of mobile phones, walkie-talkies and conference calls - necessary in a production with only six actors – accentuates such a reading.

John Macauley makes for a noble enough Othello, though it’s Cunningham who’s having the most fun, even indulging in what sounded like panto villain cackling in the play’s final moments. Only in this final scene in Desdemona’s bedroom is The Kibble’s natural backdrop of exotic foliage taken advantage of. It’s a shame most of the action is played so physically low down that it’s difficult for anyone beyond the first two rows to witness the full death-bed panorama of Iago’s plotting in this solid but safe affair.

The Herald, July 23rd 2007

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