Arts: The week in review

The Play Othello
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Indy Lifestyle Online
David Harewood becomes the first black actor at the National to play the title role in Shakespeare's tragedy of jealousy and hate. Anthony Ward designs and Sam Mendes directs a small-scale production set around the 1930s with Simon Russell Beale as Iago, Claire Skinner as Desdemona and Colin Tierney as Cassio.

In rep, the Cottesloe, National Theatre, London SE1 (0171-928 2252)

Paul Taylor had misgivings but enjoyed a staging of "lovely economy" crowned by "Russell Beale's extraordinary, compelling Iago". "Harewood has grandeur, humour, ardour, anguish and his nobility of voice and physique form an ideal contrast to Beale's gnarled ugliness," applauded the FT. "Clear, direct, full of closely observed detail ... [Harewood's] anger is, however, awesome, his distress harrowing," revelled the Telegraph. "Mendes's thrilling production ... Psychological imprisonment is further reinforced by Paul Pyant's lighting," gulped The Times. "A first-rate Othello in David Harewood ... Mendes, like Trevor Nunn before him, strengthens the tragedy by allowing it to grow out of an accumulation of domestic detail," announced The Guardian. "Should be retitled Iago ... Too mawkish, too long and badly lit," frowned the Mail.

Undeniably compelling, but heavily indebted to Nunn's pulse-quickening 1989 production. Warning: Don't sit on the sides or you'll miss half the play.

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