TThis week, the trial of Wagatha Christie heads to the West End, Romola Garai directs a one-man show on journalistic ethics and Clint Dyer creates a highly original film Othello at the National Theater.
Othello – National Theater ★★★★☆
When I was leaving Othello At the National Theater, I overheard someone say to his friend, “Tragedies, man…everyone dies.” But even if we knew how that would go, Clint Dyer’s production—the first by a black director at the theater—creates a sense of the unexpected. Foreshadowing creeps into the action right from the start, with a throbbing soundtrack and a mob vibe. Othello (Giles Terera) enters Chloe Lamford’s brutalist amphitheater-like set like a boxing champ. He’s just married Desdemona, who he’s boyishly and proudly infatuated with, but he’s surrounded by a gang of creepy fascist-style blackshirts and people don’t shake his hand.
What is striking is that Othello is the only black man on stage and Terera sensitively plays him as a cornered man who constantly has to justify his own existence. “She loved me for the dangers I had overcome,” he says of Desdemona, and those dangers feel very strong now. Rosy McEwen’s Desdemona is naturalistic and modern, a strong, sensible partner ready to face these dangers at his side. Paul Hilton doubles down on the villains as the imperious, unapologetically evil Jago; he is itchy mesmerizing to watch. With his pencil mustache and suspenders, he’s half Oswald Mosley, half guy who spends too much time on the internet posting racist conspiracy theories in Facebook groups.
Dyer’s production has a quality that suggests it will quickly become a classic. It’s captivating, full of vision, and despite its three-hour running time, it maintains an urgent pace. If anything, Othello’s descent into madness might feel too rapid, and the emphasis on running doesn’t come together all that well in the second half. In the end, however, the strongest part of this read is that Emilia (a touching Tanya Franks), Iago’s wife, suffers from domestic violence. It adds an almost unbearable helplessness to the scene shared by the women on the eve of Desdemona’s death. “You’d never have seen him,” says Emilia, who knows too much about what men are capable of. What follows is terribly more heartbreaking than ever. Jessie Thompson
Read the full review.
Press – Park Theater ★★★☆☆
Journalists suck, that’s my take on the first half of Sam Hoare’s one-man show, directed by his wife, actress Romola Garai. It’s an opinion that’s hard to dispute in this particular storyline, given that Hoare’s public school reporter-turned-tabloid happily revels in dingy bars about his seedy exploits. These exploits include, but are not limited to, framing an innocent man as a suspected pedophile in order to earn a front page hit, and another storyline leading to the suicide of a teenage girl. Dirty stories about unethical (er, criminal) journalists became well-trodden dramatic terrain in the years following the Leveson Inquiry in 2012. However, that is the reason Press is a sobering portrayal of the profession, the polemics about press corruption and morality seem a bit outdated.
Halfway there is a rug pull. Haunted by his unethical past, our reporter, who has spent the last half hour courting this audience’s disdain – a credit to Hoare’s very skillful and believable portrayal, by the way – wants to repent. He embarks on a mission to clarify the truth behind a cover-up of the persecution of fugitives. This is where things go awry, however, as the play becomes a bewildering crime drama – but one that fails to achieve either the high levels of suspense or the moral justification it aspires to. But still, with its tight running time of just an hour and a convincing performance from Hoare, Press is never boring. Annabel Nugent
Vardy v. Rooney: The Trial of Wagatha Christie – Wyndham’s Theatre ★★★☆☆
We all know what they say about something that ain’t broke. Since Coleen Rooney sensationally revealed in 2019 that the party that published her private Instagram stories ………. Rebekah Vardy’s account, the broken relationship between the footballers’ wives, was hailed as a major real-life drama. So clean Vardy v. Rooney: The Trial of Wagatha Christie, a weekly West End show directed by Lisa Spirling, stick to the facts. Throughout the court scenes, the actors speak the real transcripts of the trial earlier this year in which Vardy unsuccessfully sued Rooney for defamation. And for the most part it works.
Lucy May Barker and Laura Dos Santos are fabulously paired as the fighting wives. Barker’s Vardy is uptight and annoyed, while Rooney is played with a cool charm that instantly draws audiences to his side. The addition of match experts (Sharan Phull and Nathan McMullen) to comment on the twists and turns of the process is a brilliant touch, and also provides context when needed.
But as much as Vardy vs. RooneySticking to reality is part of his charm, it also holds him back. It’s more entertaining to watch someone try and wriggle their way out of tricky questions and fail, so that after a sizzling, exciting act one defense from Vardy, the energy wanes as Rooney, the righteous party, later takes a stand. While not quite jury duty, the experience feels formal and less like the soapy fun you’d enjoy. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, yes – but to really entertain an audience, it’s best to combine the two works. Nicole Vasell
https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/culture/othello-national-theatre-press-vardy-rooney-b2237336.html Theater reviews: Othello, Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial, Press