Just two years after Yorkshire last witnessed a star turn as Othello, the Crucible has arguably trumped Northern Broadsides' casting of Lenny Henry as the Moor - pulling off the coup of landing both Clarke Peters and Dominic West from hit American TV show The Wire. Everything about this production of Shakespeare's tragedy places the focus firmly with the on stage talent.
Morgan Large's lean and uncluttered set allows huge space for the cast to work and the exquisite costumes only serve to further illuminate the actors wearing them.
Peters lacks the sheer physical presence that Henry brought to the role. His casual strut and mellifluous African tones don't instantly convey the image of one of the most fearsome and respected Generals in the Venetian Army but what he does bring is an emotional depth. His portrayal of an ageing man, undone by the insecurity that comes with being at the wrong end of a May-December marriage, is superbly handled. His descent from swaggering masculinity to simpering paranoia is utterly believable.
West's Iago is superficially gregarious. His laddish persona and earthy Yorkshire accent perfectly mask the inherent evil lurking beneath, allowing him to cajole his unwitting accomplices in to doing his bidding without often having to reveal the true source of his motivation. Manipulation is second nature to West's characterisation who watches with smug self-satisfaction as his dastardly plan takes shape before him. Indeed, it often feels he views the destruction he wreaks as mere sport rather than being driven by an unquenchable thirst for revenge.
This is a very faithful and respectful staging and despite the inevitable hullabaloo surrounding the star casting neither actor ever attempts to upstage the other, or the rest of the very talented company. This is borne out by several other eye-catching performances notably Gwilym Lee as the honourable, but doomed, Cassio.