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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 12:27 GMT
Press reviews: Othello
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ewan McGregor in Othello
McGregor (right) was last seen in the West End in Guys and Dolls
A new West End production of Shakespeare's Othello starring Ewan McGregor has become the hottest ticket in London.

Tickets for the Donmar Warehouse show are changing hands at many times their original price, according to reports.

Directed by Michael Grandage, the play stars Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role and Kelly Reilly as Desdemona.

The critics have been largely enthusiastic about the production, though not all were won over by McGregor's performance as Iago.


Chiwetel Ejiofor produces one of the most memorable performances of Othello in recent years.

His interpretation of the angst-ridden Moor is beautifully balanced and judged.

Sadly, though, the same cannot be said of Ewan McGregor's take on the devilish Iago.

We wanted to taste and smell Iago's villainy, and instead we got a rather testy young Scotsman.


This Othello is performed to the highest standards, a strong cast being drilled to an inch of perfection by director Michael Grandage.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in Othello
The title role is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, star of Kinky Boots
Mr Ejiofor speaks verse with that misleading effortlessness only the very best actors can accomplish.

Ewan McGregor makes Iago a plausible conman, a gifted chameleon. But I could have done with perhaps five per cent more unnerving evil in the performance.

But I am searching hard to find too much fault with him. This is certainly an efficient Iago.


I've never quite been able to understand all the fuss about McGregor.

I therefore approached his Iago with pretty low expectations, only to find that I had nevertheless pitched them too high.

In a rare botched shot from director Michael Grandage, McGregor is by far the weakest link in a disappointing production.

There is no glee or panache to this performance, no light and shade in McGregor's workaday, slightly Scottish delivery.

How absurd, in retrospect, to offer the role of Iago, the third longest in the Shakespearean canon, to a man making his debut with the Bard.


With Ejiofor and McGregor, the production finds two actors who can go against the grain of current notions of how their roles should be played.

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kelly Reilly in Othello
Kelly Reilly (right) plays Desdemona in the sold-out production
Delivering the verse with a warm expressiveness, Ejiofor's magnificent, exotic-accented Othello exudes a calm charisma.

A boyish, bearded McGregor brings an easy affability to the public side of his role.

He drops the mask in order to assume a slightly louche, though insufficiently unsettling, intimacy with the audience.


Ejiofor puts himself into the front rank of modern Othellos.

This is a performance that, in its descent from majestic dignity to deluded rage, suggests a great and noble building being destroyed by the wrecker's ball.

The ball in question, of course, is Iago, of whom Ewan McGregor gives a decent, robust if insufficiently complex account.

In an age of high-concept Shakespeare, Michael Grandage has come up with a refreshingly classical production.

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