"Ooo my Desdemona, our lovin's been so good, you know I wanna hold you, I wonder if I could..." -- The Kids From Fame

Theatre This Guardian interview with one of my favourite actresses, Kelly Reilly, includes an interesting discussion about playing Shakespeare's Othello's Desdemona (which she's about to give us at the Donmar) in this day and age:
"The thing is, she's so loyal that she genuinely can't understand why Othello could convince himself that she has been unfaithful to him. She keeps asking him, 'What's wrong?' This is a woman who has betrayed convention to marry him - in Elizabethan times, to get married without your father's consent, as she does, was socially intolerable. She has defied convention, alienated her father, risked a great deal and then been utterly faithful to her husband, and this is what she gets?" Men, eh? But isn't Othello and Desdemona's relationship thoroughly weird, I ask? "Why do you say that?" Because, for all the passion she has for him and he for her, their marriage remains unconsummated. "That's how we're playing it. That way, the drama of Othello's jealousy becomes more intense. He thinks Roderigo is getting what he hasn't had and that fuels his rage even more, and for Desdemona, makes her husband even more incomprehensible."
I do like that interpretation. Othello has always been one of my problem plays, because although I understand the psychological games that Iago is playing, it does stretch the audience's suspension of disbelief rather far in relation to the fragility of relationships. That said, as we've discovered even more recently, the generals with the strongest public images can be utterly naive when it comes to their private life.

No comments: