Hottest ticket in town Othello let down by ‘Ewan McGregor factor’
Othello the hottest ticket in London's West End, opened last night to generally excellent reviews for the play – but less-than-glowing tributes to its Hollywood star, Ewan McGregor. With McGregor as Iago, opposite fellow film actor Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role, tickets to the Donmar Warehouse production have been pushed to £2,000 on the street, while, online, £29 seats have fetched £800 on eBay. If the critics are to be believed, some theatre-goers will be feeling ripped off this morning.
The Times was friendliest, its critic Benedict Nightingale writing that McGregor as Iago "is quick of wit and stunningly swift when it comes to improvising new disasters or turning random events to his advantage." He gave the play four out of five stars, adding: "The odd thing is that he [McGregor] is most powerfully eloquent when he is not speaking."
The actor, who commands £5m per film and whose "Ewan McGregor factor" is credited by Donmar staff for boosting box office sales, may not want to read the others. The Guardian gave the play four stars but described McGregor's performance as "decent, robust, if insufficiently complex." Critic Michael Billington went on: "McGregor's great asset, paradoxically, is charm. But I never felt the actor gave us privileged access to what Hazlitt called the man's 'diseased intellectual activity'... we get simply an enigmatic destroyer."
The Daily Telegraph was most scathing, describing the Trainspotting star as "by far the weakest link in a disappointing production". Critic Charles Spencer, referring to the high price of black-market tickets, wrote: "I don't think even Nicole Kidman, during her pure theatrical Viagra days in The Blue Room, commanded quite such a sum. But believe me, she was worth far, far more than Ewan McGregor as the evil Iago. Indeed I'd be reluctant to part with a tenner for his performance."
American Gangster star Ejiofor fares a lot better, Billington saying he "puts himself into the front rank of modern Othellos... Agate said the three essential qualities for any Othello were nobility, temperament and the capacity to be pole-axed; and Ejiofor has them all." Of Kelly Reilly as Desdemona, Billington added: "What I shall long remember is her vulnerability." ·