Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Much ado

There is hype and there is hysteria: one is based on promotion the other on emotion. Too often I conflate the two and end up overly excited about something that ultimately under delivers. The mismatch comes from expecting of something but forgetting to consider the capacity of what you are expecting it from (women: think Valentine's Day; men: think European Championship). But that is exactly where the fault line lies: the expectation.

This I found to be true the other night as I meandered through the back streets of Covent Garden clutching my front row ticket to the hottest show in town: Othello starring Ewan McGregor at the Donmar Warehouse. With tickets going for £1200 on Ebay, there was a palpable aura of unfettered expectation amongst the throngs overpaying for pre-show Merlot at the Donmar's bar.

With expectations suitably tempered with slugs of pre-show and interval wine, I would have to agree with today's mainstream (Times and Guardian) 4-star reviews. Ewan was a solid Iago but not as convincing at cunning malice as Matt Damon in Talented Mr.Ripley and somehow, for me, the comparison was inescapable. Ewan is also much shorter than I expected (I'd guess 5'8") which (pathetically) threw my focus from his lines to whether he was wearing lifts. Kelly Reilly as Desdemona was disappointingly weak (that's polite for crap and intensely irritating) which I should have expected having walked out of this year's Piano/Forte at the Royal Court thanks to her performance. Her 'air, hair, lair' affectations are too Keira Knightley meets Rosamund Pike to leave me feeling anything but cold.

But then there is Chiwetel Ejiofor: the sort of actor who is born, not made. If most of the audience was filled with McGregor fans, it was Ejiofor's show to steal. He is an actor who can emote from silence and his brooding presence was perfect at capturing Othello's descent into devastating jealousy. If the Donmar's staging of Othello defies one expectation it's that Chiwetel is no longer one of Britain's greatest black film stars - he is simply one of the world's great actors. And with that alone Othello exceeded all expectations.

Donmar Warehouse
Until 23 Feb 2008
Sold out; call 0870 060 6624 for returns