without the Shakespeare? Surely some mistake? Not a bit of it.
The adaptation of Othello by Andrew Davis was a triumph for all
He retold the
story in his words and told it brilliantly. Did I miss the Poetry?
Of course. But you would have had to be very dull not to see
that the poetry of high drama had been supplanted by something
equally thrilling - the poetry of television.
You do not need heightened language
to create an effect on the small screen: simple lines, delivered
with feeling, can be just as powerful. When all the elements
are in place -the lighting, the camerawork, the sound affects
- anything is possible.
'This is not about race,"
said Ben Jago, "It is about love."
The transposition of the play from
16th Century Venice to contemporary London., with a black police
officer, John Othello, becoming Commissioner of the Metropolitan
Police, had seemed to put the issue of race centre Stage. A
sub-plot, without parallel in Shakespeare, dealt with attempts
to weed out racist bigotry from the Met. It was good stuff with
a sharp, topical edge.
But as the hero became prey to
obsessive jealousy you realised it was, here, in the dark recesses
of the human heart, that the real drama lay. There were no rational
grounds for Othello to believe that his wife was cheating: his
mind had been poisoned against her by his two-faced deputy.
But when was love aver rational?
The tragedy which Shakespeare in
his genius articulated - and which Andrew Davies in his genius
articulated for a new generation - is that you can love someone,
marry them, know every inch of their body, but never finally
be certain of them.
Eamon Walker in the title role
captured the confusions of a man who 'loved not wisely but too
well' Christopher Eccleston was a hypnotic villain. And for
good measure there was a brilliantly atmospheric score from
30 December 2001