Entertainment & Arts

Critics praise National Theatre's 'enthralling' Othello

Rory Kinnear – Iago (left), Adrian Lester - Othello (right)
Image caption Rory Kinnear (left) plays Iago opposite Adrian Lester (right) as Othello

The National Theatre's new production of Othello his drawn glowing reviews, with high praise for its stars Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear.

Director Sir Nicholas Hytner has moved Shakespeare's tragedy to the 21st Century, with the Cyprus scenes set in a stark military base.

The Telegraph's five-star review said the play had "all the hallmarks of Hytner at his best".

The Mail called it "inventive and enthralling".

Othello opened at the Olivier Theatre on Tuesday - coinciding with Shakespeare's 23 April birthday.

Lester was last seen at the National as Henry V 10 years ago, when Sir Nicholas began his tenure as the National's artistic director.

He recently played the pioneering African-American actor Ira Aldridge in the play Red Velvet. Aldridge caused a sensation in London in 1833 when he took over the role of Othello after famous actor Edmund Kean collapsed on stage.

"One can only begin to imagine how Aldridge would marvel if his spirit could time-travel and view Hytner's brilliantly acted (both leads are stunning), acutely penetrating and deeply disturbing account of the play," said Paul Taylor in The Independent.

The Metro's five-star review pointed out that Lester's take on Othello had been one of the "most eagerly awaited theatrical events of the year".

"Kinnear's Iago could easily dominate the piece here, but Lester's thunderous rage, his wracking sobs at his wife's perceived treachery, and his final, broken flailing are enthralling in their power," it said.

Image caption Olivia Vinall appears as Desdemona

"Adrian Lester is a charismatic, dignified Othello," wrote the Evening Standard's Henry Hitchings.

"When jealousy grips him he seethes with the sort of fury that causes him to flip a table with a single flick of his wrist. But he brings a delicate grace to the role, and the crispness of his verse-speaking is admirable - a reminder, as if we needed one, of his great quality as a Shakespearean actor."

The Mail's Quentin Letts wrote: "It is an odd thing to find oneself criticising an actor for being too natural but maybe the extremity of Iago's nastiness demands a little more caricature - a little more brooding, jaw-clenching villainy - if our minds are to compute it.

"That is the sole, slight flaw in an otherwise fine performance from Mr Kinnear who cements his reputation as one of our stage's stars."

The Telegraph's Charles Spencer wrote: "This Othello has all the hallmarks of Hytner at his best - it's witty, agile, lucid and deeply felt.

"It's a gripping production of a tragedy that is also an intensely painful psychological thriller, and though the production lasts more than three hours, it never loosens its dramatic hold.

"My word, we will miss Hytner when he leaves the NT in 2015."

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