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Stratford’s ‘Othello’: a must-see tragedy

By |2018-01-16T15:41:21-05:00October 31st, 2017|Entertainment|

By Robert W. Bethune

David Latham’s production of “Othello” is a thing of terror: first the terrible clarity of what Iago is going to do and that nothing can stop him, then that even Iago can no longer stop what must happen. You hope for intervention; your hopes are wrecked. Finally, you see one man rip another apart from inside, a sinister moral ravagement that takes four lives, then cloaks itself in Iago’s silence: “Henceforth I never will speak word.”
Philip Akin’s Othello is big, powerful, with tribal facial scars, a warrior. When Iago’s goading makes him explode, shrapnel flies. His love for Desdemona is physical, no poetic fancy; she, played by little Claire Jullien, enjoys him. His love for her breaks down along with his moral fiber; he is truly terrible to her in murder. After her death, he does not rise. His weight of grief holds him to the earth to which he goes, only partly able to restore his dignity.
The center of the production is Jonathon Goad as Iago: So aptly named! Goad he is and goad he does, a sociopathic poniard piercing Othello’s weaknesses, stinging fear and need into agonized life, terrifyingly calm all the while. Even after Othello’s explosion into fury traps him in his own scheme, he plays his cards with absolute precision, including his swift and cold-blooded decision to murder his own wife.
The excellence of all the design work in this production is that you do not notice it. In like manner, some fine stage combat work flies below the radar. You are so involved in the drama that breeds the violence that you do not notice the great skill in the staging.
Kudos to the team for leaving the play in its own time. Time-shifting Shakespeare has become an empty game. Enough!
At Cyprus, Desdemona’s headdress makes her look like a space alien. Please, give her back her head!


Stratford Festival of Canada at the Avon Theatre. In repertory, Tues.-Sun., through Sept. 22. Tickets: $40-$108 Canadian. For information: 800-567-1600 or

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.