To see or not to see? That is the question posited by the CBC as it airs Othello The Tragedy of the Moor both as a radio drama Friday June 13th at 7:30 and as a television drama on Sunday June 15th at 9:00. Based on the quality of the adapted for TV version, that is not a question.
It is clear from the first widescreen images of CBC's Othello that a lot of thought went behind the visual presentation of this Shakespearean tragedy. No matter how large the small screen is it has its limitations: This is a very televisic version that transforms TV's weaknesses into an asset. Language wise Shakespeare's poetry has been invisibly transformed to Shakespearean prose.
This CBC production of Shakespeare's Othello is visually gorgeous. The acting is not as theatrical as you would expect and this allows the play to sound and feel good on TV instead of being overwhelming. Scholars will probably notice a few missing scenes but there is nothing obviously missing here that would take away from the play.
Carlo Rota (Little Mosque on the Prairie) is excellent in the title role. So is pretty much everyone else though I was somewhat less impressed by Christine Horne as Desdemona. Then again it is not a very meaty role and there is only so many versions of looking at your husband with love a girl can do.
Othello, a Moor working for the Venice government, marries the beautiful Desdemona. His ensign, Iago, jealous of having been skipped over for promotion as his lieutenant and believing Othello bedded his wife Emilia, seeds discord in the relationship by suggesting Desdemona has been unfaithful with Cassio, the man who received the post Iago coveted. This, being Shakespeare, has tragic results.
For all you teachers out there: there is no need to tape CBC's Othello as the DVD will be available in September 2008 so you can just sit back and enjoy.