WATCH: Wire Actor Dominic West Talks About Playing Iago In Shakespeare's Othello.
'The Wire' Tangles With Shakespeare: Dominic West And
Clarke Peters Star In 'Othello' (2011)
THE WIRE TANGLES WITH SHAKESPEARE: Stars of critically acclaimed TV show The Wire, Clarke Peters and Dominic West, starred in the Crucible theatre production of William Shakespeare's Othello in 2011. (Photo by Hugo Glendinning).
FOR MANY COMMENTATORS, groundbreaking TV show The Wire, was as good as Shakespeare. So it seemed
only fitting that two of its stars would perform together in one of his plays. By Ben Arogundade.
IN OCTOBER 2011 at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield, England, two stars from the highly acclaimed HBO TV drama, 'The Wire', appeared in Shakespeare's Othello. Clarke Peters (detective Lester Freaman) featured in the title role, opposite Dominic West (detective Jimmy McNulty) as Iago.
THE WIRE MEETS SHAKESPEARE
The link between The Wire and the works of Shakespeare has been a popular thread amongst fans of the show and critics alike, ever since it was first aired on US screens back in June 2002. Ross Anderson, writing for The Times, summed up the euphoric reactions of the press when he stated that, “In its praise, critics have summoned Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy and the Greek tragedians.”
Writer Bryan Appleyard referenced the quality of the show’s characterisations when he contended that, “as in Shakespeare, even the briefest walk-on becomes a fully rounded human being.” Some fans have even compared the heavy street patois of the show's African American characters to Shakespeare’s old English — not in style, but in the fact that both of them require translating for the untrained ear.
The blogosphere has also contributed its own opinions. Sydney-based blogger Starkimarki makes direct comparisons between The Wire’s characters and Shakespeare’s classic personalities. In his eyes D’Angelo is Hamlet and Avon Barksdale is Claudius.
Ironically, long before Peters — who has also starred in the films Red Hook Summer and Notting Hill — was called to the role, he had harboured a longstanding ambition to play The Moor, as had other members of The Wire cast. “I think at one point Wendell (Pierce, who played Bunk) brought it up,” Peters told 'The Observer'. ‘We were all in the same mindset: this would be a really wonderful thing for us to do.”
As it turns out, Peters is not the first actor from The Wire to play Othello. On August 15, 2010, Seth Gilliam (Sgt. Ellis Carver) reprised the role in a Commonwealth Shakespeare Company production at Boston Common.
In the wake of a string of notable performances in the title role over the years — by names such as Paul Robeson, Laurence Fishburne, Eamonn Walker, Willard White, Chiwetel Ejiofor and James Earl Jones — the role has become a standard bearer for all contemporary black actors. These days, unless you’ve played The Moor, or some other of Shakespeare’s leads in a major production, they’ll always be a gaping hole in your portfolio.
ANOTHER OTHELLO: The Wire's Seth Gilliam as Othello and Marianna Bassham as Desdemona, in the Boston Common performance of Shakespeare's play. (Photo by Andrew Brilliant).
NEXT: MORE ABOUT SHAKESPEARE'S OTHELLO
THE CULTURE OF SHAKESPEARE