OthelloBy William Shakespeare
Directed by John Dexter
The National Theatre
The Old Vic, London - Opened 21st April 1964
Michael Rothwell ... Roderigo
Frank Finlay ... Iago
Martin Boddey ... Brabantio
Laurence Olivier ... Othello
Derek Jacobi ... Cassio
Edward Petherbridge ... Senate officer
George Innes ... Senate officer
Edward Caddick ... Gratiano
Keneth Mackintosh ... Lodovico
Harry Lomax ... Duke of Venice
Terence Knapp ... Duke's Officer
Keith Marsh ... Senator
Tom Kempinski ... Sailor
Peter John ... Messenger
Maggie Smith ... Desdamona
Edward Hardwicke ... Montano
William Hobbs ... Cypriot Officer
Roger Heathcott ... Cypriot Officer
Keith Marsh ... Cypriot Officer
Joyce Redman ... Emilia
Neil Fitzpatrick ... Herald
Mary Miller ... Bianca
Senators, Soldiers, Cypriots:
Raymond Clarke, Neil Fitzpatrick, Reginald Green, Roger Heathcott, William Hobbs, George Innes, Caroline John, Peter john, Tom Kempinski, Terence Knapp, Keith Marsh, Ronald Pember, Edward Petherbridge, Sheila Reid, John Rogers, Robert Russell, Frank Wylie.
Frank Finlay's most subtle Iago is the only one I have ever seen who comes near to justifying the title "honest, honest." He also makes a perfect touchstone for all the other characters.
Frank Finlay's Iago runs a strangely effective gamut from braggart to whimpering, self justifying neurotic, plainly deranged by the last scene; an Iago who wanes but seems quite unusually well motivated.
Frank Finlay's convincing and powerful Iago is bluff, provincial noisy and professionally jealous, sometimes goading himself into hysterical furry, less a Machiavelli than one of those amoeba-minded Southern Senators who still foam at the mouth at the thought of a black man and a white woman getting into bed together.
The Sunday Times
As an actor, Gielgud was heart and soul, while Olivier was blood and guts, so it's not surprising that Olivier seems the more tortured. Although blessed with phenomenal talent, looks and success, he remained restless, suspicious and threatened by competition. He didn't have to go into the ring to fight it out, but in 1966, when he was planning Othello at the National, he faced a problem. Audiences had become more cynical than in Kean's day - now they relished Iago's deviousness and were impatient with Othello's vulnerability - so the reigning champion might be at a disadvantage. Frank Finlay, a fine but undemonstrative actor, was cast as Iago, and his lines reduced. Unnecessary precautions, I believe. Olivier's blacked-up Othello may not be PC nowadays, but it was an astonishing piece of acting: every fibre of his being transformed into someone else. And yet the curse of the Moorish play - a duel between the two protagonists - had one more twist in its tail. When the production was filmed, the camera was unflattering to Olivier's huge performance, while revealing Finlay's low-key Iago to be superb.
Sir Anthony Sher - You don't have to be mad to be a great actor ... but it helps.
The Guardian, Thursday May 24, 2007.