This most domestic of Shakespeare's tragedies benefits from the intimacy of the National's smallest auditorium and director Sam Mendes takes full advantage of that in the setting. Cyprus is a languid Thirties colonial outpost where secret corners remain unlit in sinister streets and Desdemona listens to a phonograph in her boudoir.
David Harewood, with the physical strength of a soldier and the easy authority of a diplomat, makes an impressive Othello. If he seems too swiftly convinced by Iago of his wife's infidelity, that is often cited as a fault in the play, but here Simon Russell Beale is so completely the villain that it seems odd he has not been rumbled long ago. This Iago is a stage manager of events, but he is also a performer, needing attention (including ours) and demonstrating his murderous intentions with the aid of a pack of cards.
Claire Skinner flails delicately against Othello with childish fists. The final scene can scarcely ever have been more affecting as the pair are united in death, both to an extent victims. The line "The pity of it, Iago, the pity of it" has never been more apposite.
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