[LMB] Mercutio and Tybalt OT:

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Thu Jan 13 17:48:02 GMT 2022

John: > As you mention colour-blind casting (meaning the actor's skin tone
> irrelevant), let me also mention one problem with it, which is that if one
> says Othello -must- be played by an actor of colour (which is now pretty
> much the case), one is also implicitly saying that no actor of colour can
> play anyone else in *Othello*, including the much more interesting role of
> Iago. It can be done, of course, as by the RSC a few years back with both
> Othello and Iago played by actors of colour, but that was seen as
> and the seemingly anti-racist rule has costs that those advocating it
> rarely seem to register.

Howard: I liked a movie production of Wuthering Heights with a black
Heathcliff.   It worked with our modern times.

John: And is not so uncanonical -- Heathcliff is certainly swarthy, dark
and dangerous, and there are some implications of Romany blood, or at least
of arousing that suspicion. (Wuthering Heights is -not- reliably narrated,
and Jabez Lockwood is a very odd duck indeed.) Making Heathcliff's darkness
overt is a clear strategy, but there can be the danger of promoting
readings in which actor of colour = character is alien/alienated/dangerous
-- not so good a stereotype to promulgate. Anyone can play any role, for
all of me -- I've seen a female Lear, a female Richard II, an Afro-Saxon
male Rosalind, all wonderful -- but there are so many pitfalls. (Consider
early casting of Klingons, frex ...)

Walter: Have Othello be White and the rest of the cast Black.

John: Yup, that's one route, taken by Patrick Stewart in a production in
... DC, IIRC, in the 2000s sometime. But there's a twist in the tale,
because what happened was that Stewart really wanted to play Othello, and
could only do so by persuading an African-American company to stage a
so-called reverse or photo-negative version, with all the textual whites
and blacks switched around (so, "an old white ram is tupping your black
ewe" &c.) ; and the deal could work commercially mostly because he was then
busy being Jean-Luc Picard and his name was a major draw.

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

Associate Member, Hughes Hall, Cambridge
Independent Scholar

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