Ralph Richardson as Othello

Ralph Richardson as Othello

This is Ralph Richardson playing Othello with Curigwen Lewis as Desdemona in 1938 at the Old Vic.

The Old Vic was the country's centre for Shakespeare at the time. Lilian Baylis, who had recently taken over the management of the theatre, staged the entire Shakespeare canon between 1920 and 1925, the first ever manager to do so. She also made the unusual decision to offer Shakespeare at affordable prices in an era when his plays tended to be staged in the more expensive venues.

It was common until the second half of the 20th century for Othello to be played by a white actor blacked up, and portrayals of Othello by black actors such as Ira Aldridge and Paul Robeson had been rare. Richardson who was one of the Vic's most popular performers, received mixed reviews for Othello, possibly because the show was stolen by the young actor playing Iago, Laurence Olivier.