Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 5. 1967.
Mr. Benson replies:
Mr. Benson replies:
J. A. Coleman seems to, have gone wildly astray in his understanding of the review, I did indeed point out that Othello lacked cinematic merit, but went on to add that this fact was not of prime importance. What was criticised was not the "film" but the stage performance of the play.
Mr. Coleman mentions the "action and text" as being two important features of a Shakespeare play, implying that neither was referred to in the review. I certainly attempted to criticise the action as staged in this version of Othello. I do not agree that "technicalities" like sets, costumes, and breathing corpses can be dismissed as irrelevant when these items individually contribute to one's appreciation of the production of the whole. Furthermore. Mr. Coleman is assured that I am not engaged in any quest for the "technically perfect"—I don't even know what the phrase means.
Mr. Coleman's contention that "sobbing, slobbering and gymnastics" constitute Shakespeare's method of indicating insanity seems to me quite insupportable. A reading of the play gives no such hint, and the other Othellos on film indicate that Mr. Coleman has confused Shakespeare's method with Olivier's method. Paul Robeson, in his New York performances some twenty-five years ago, was criticised for similar reasons. He, like Olivier, resorted to frothing at the mouth, rather than suggesting Othello's insanity by more subtle means.
Contrary to Mr. Coleman's assumptions, my imagination was working overtime. I was thinking of an Othello with a less crude central performance, better sets, more imaginative staging of the action, non-breathing corpses, and "similar technicalities." Mr. Coleman obviously liked the film, but he has not given his reasons. I fear that all he has left is "the text," something which he could have stayed home and read in peace and tranquility.