General misconduct

Timothy Ramsden

OTHELLO Watermill Theatre, Newbury.

Neil Caple's foyer photo shows a cheeky face and he makes a matey Iago, someone who does not need to play at being a bluff fellow.

Yet the menace is there; without moving a facial muscle his stare shuts up the crowd at "The lieutenant must be saved before the ancient," and his features easily shift to insolence when found out. His quick opportunism in killing his wife and escaping is all too credible.

Leo Wringler's Othello is a strong military leader, shocked any of his men could be so unprofessional as to have a personal quarrel where there is political unrest, but lost when it comes to his domestic affairs. Jackie Morrison's Desdemona is a performance beautifully spoken though it is hard to see why such an innocent should be dressed so assertively a la Scarlet Woman. Wringler's Othello retains faint traces of African vowels until his jealousy rises and the assimilated European tones slip away.

Edward Hal's production suitably has Iago's manipulation of his boss begin while the ancient is getting his hands oily giving Othello a back massage.

For all its weaker passages and blank verse speaking of the wrong sort in minor roles (though not David Acton's eternal loser of a Rodrigo or the forceful, finally outraged Emilia) this is an Othello whose best scenes are more bright than rusty.

To November 4. Runs 3 hours 10 minutes. Tickets: 01635 46044

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Timothy Ramsden

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