REVIEWS: A northern soul is no laughing matter . . .


Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

ALL in all, this was an enjoyable production that earned warm applause, with fine traditional set and costumes, a little dramatic music for scene changes, excellent thunder and lightning, wonderful bed curtains, and some engrossing acting. What marred it somewhat, though, was too much inappropriate audience laughter.

For Iago, Dominic West has chosen an earthy, Sheffield accent, more thuggish than devious (he grew up in Sheffield) rather than his Eton one.

This accent, he reckons, lends an earnest believability to Iago’s words when deceiving Othello. Maybe - though silver-tongued Eton tones can usually make a good job of sounding sincere and convincing when speaking downright lies, designed to manipulate.

The main problem with this earthy Northern accent is its potential for comedic overtones, especially as, from the very beginning, the company makes sure to play upon every opportunity for comedy in any turn of phrase, situation or character.

This is fine in the right places, as with Shakespeare’s intended comic relief in the scene where Casio gets drunk. But, in spite of good acting, having established a weepy, camped-up Rodrigo, and a Iago whose lies bring belly-laughs, it’s hard to backtrack when things turn more serious.

The audience continued to take Rodrigo and Iago rather too lightly later on, blowing to bits that essential, subtle build-up of sustained tension that has us fully engage in each character’s torment or villainy and in the real tragedy of it all.

There was even a titter during the bed-chamber murders.

Lily James kept things straighter as an innocent, earnest Desdemona, full of sparkle and freshness, as did Clarke Peters as Othello.

As he descended from worthy general into crazed manic fool, his African accent worked well only to a certain extent, lacking, as it does, the fluidity and clarity that should be the Moor’s.

As Emelia, Alexandra Gilbreath excels, bringing warranted humour and lightness earlier on, yet remaining totally engaging in her heart-rending desperation as the final tragedy unfolds.

Best not be too harsh on Colin George in his roles of Brabantio and Gratiano; after all, he is the founding artistic director of the Crucible and involved in its design, and this was a lovely way for him to celebrate the Crucible’s fortieth birthday.

As said, this is an enjoyable production and, with an audience less intent on superfluous laughter, the full tragic impact will be all the greater.

* Eileen Caiger Gray


Doncaster Little Theatre

THIS Clockwork Orange ticked away like a time bomb at Doncaster’s Little Theatre.

This iconic play was presented with a passion and professionalism by the leader of the Droogs Alex in a mammoth task of never leaving the stage.

Fortunately, Tommy Roberts had this performance clocked.

Backed by a team of strong performers each ably mastering their multi-roles and delivering the Nadsat language for all to fully understand, 2 Act certainly delivered this show to an appreciative audience.

The subject nature of the piece was so artistically given that it did not need to shy away from the brutality of its relevance in today’s society.

A contemporary set utilised the acting skills of the cast and the twelve members all performed with a focused commitment to delivering this unique piece of theatre.

With video footage of horrific past atrocities it kept the audience engaged at all times and this was evident as the interval came and there was complete silence whilst leaving the space to get a drink.

* Simon Carr