Othello, Second Age Theatre Company

Tivoli Theatre, Dublin
November  6 – 29, 1997

Town Hall Theatre, Galway
December 1 – 5, 1997

Cork Opera House
December 8 –12, 1997

As Iago, with Cassio (Robert Price)

Critical Response

“Ozzie Jones, the director, has provided one of the most original, stimulating and provocative productions of Othello seen in Ireland for several decades. . . . It takes some risks. Here, Iago is black, hip, bluff and jovial. . . . Here, because Iago is black and Othello merely darker than white, the racism that has traditionally given the play its Elizabethan (and subsequent) emotional charge is largely defused, and we are down to the basic human virtues and vicissitudes of sex and ambition. . . . They seem often to be playing The Vengeance of Iago rather than The Tragedy of Othello, but their playing is always consistent and has its own theatrical integrity even if it is not always what has been the interpretation traditionally accepted as authentic in these parts. . . . Johnny Lee Davenport dominates as the larger-than-life villain Iago.”
—David Nowlan, The Irish Times (November 7, 1997)

“There is a break with tradition in casting Johnny Lee Davenport as a black Iago, and it works amazingly well, giving terrible poignancy to the man’s raging and destructive jealousy of the feted and successful Moor of Venice. But Davenport’s performance still has a doubtful psychological provenance: he seems to be enjoying his own plotting, a characteristic that sits uncomfortably with obsession.”
—Emer O’Kelly, Irish Independent (November 9, 1997)

“This was absolutely magnificent. With this production, the American director Ozzie Jones has given us a version of Shakespeare’s finest tragedy that is highly original and hugely successful. . . . From the opening bars of the introductory music to the final dipping of the lights, the capacity crowed in the Tivoli was completely and utterly enthralled. . . . In his press release the director says that by casting black American actor Johnny Lee Davenport as Iago he is helping to ‘ . . . question society’s image of what Othello symbolizes, and in this way highlight the racial issues at the heart of the text.’ It’s a bold move which has worked brilliantly: both Davenport as Iago, and Michael Grennett as Othello are quite wonderful; with Davenport’s energy and sheer physical presence acting as an excellent  counterbalance to Grennell’s refined, poetic warrior. . . .Davenport occasionally gives his dialogue the loping rhythm of rap—(it is effective in emphasizing his ‘otherness’ from his fellows, but wisely not overused).”
Irish Independent (November 18, 1997)

“Jones has subverted, or rather muddled, the race issue by casting as Iago an Afro-American (Johnny Lee Davenport) whose enunciation puzzingly surveys a range of black styles—hip-hop, then vaudeville blackface, then rap.”
Sunday Times (November 18, 1997)

“The star of the show is undoubtedly Johnny Lee Davenport as Iago. The irony of his casting as Othello’s racially envious confidant is hardly subtle but, such is the force of his character and stage presence, he carries it off with aplomb.”
—Chris Lowry, Irish News (November 1997)


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