Ewan McGregor, Wearing Codpiece, Makes Plausible Iago in London

By Warwick Thompson Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) — When a Hollywood star agrees to appear in a studio-sized, not-for-profit Shakespeare production, you can be sure tickets will sell out in minutes. Whether he can distinguish a couplet from a codpiece is another matter.Fortunately, Ewan McGregor gives a very creditable performance — codpiece and all — in “Othello” at London’s 250- seat Donmar Warehouse. The actor, whose films include “Star Wars” and “Moulin Rouge,” brings an understated clarity and compelling plausibility to the role of Iago.What he does not bring is a grander sense of the role’s wild poetry. His Iago does not scale the thrilling peaks of evil, nor mine the caves of despair, but instead remains rooted in a middle ground of cinematic verity.He even alters the text to intensify the realism. Iago usually claims to be “four times seven years” old. The 36-year- old McGregor replaces this with “five times seven years,” displaying a lack of trust in the audience’s ability to suspend even a small amount of disbelief.Director Michael Grandage provides a transparent, simple and generally well-paced production in traditional costume. Though there are some longueurs, the memory of them is swept aside by an exciting climactic murder scene, staged with brutal honesty.Christopher Oram’s minimalist set is a bare flagstone floor with a rust-colored wall behind it. A few simple items of wooden furniture are used to suggest interior and exterior locations, and the whole is beautifully lit by Paule Constable.Source: www.bloomberg.com