OTHELLO: William Shakespeare
RSC: RST Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 3h 25m, one interval. Till 28 08 15
Tkts: 0844 800 1110
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 11 07 15
Thoughtful and thought-provoking.
Iqbal Khan has chosen to set his OTHELLO very much within a military framework. Shifting it to a present-day army in what could be, say, Afghanistan (we barely notice the Cyprus references) we are parachuted into a macho world of violence, torture, toughness and testosterone. That the love story at the centre of this tale goes wrong is hardly surprising. The world Khan and his team create has no room for love, it is out of place, the characters have no experience of it, nor know how to handle it. A land well fertilised, then, for Iago to wreak his revenge.
Khan creates his world with careful thought. With diverse casting to the fore, Khan shifts the focus of the play away from race and on to the nature of this war-drenched society.
All the carefully drawn pieces add up to a toweringly satisfying whole.
Hugh Quarshie doesn’t create and Othello who is grand and noble. He does better, he creates an Othello who is recognisably and believably a soldier through and through – and who possesses an inner-dignity that draws us towards him; when with Desdemona there is, too, a visible vulnerability – that nicely makes him ripe for Iago’s picking. It’s a skilled, well-shaped performance, true and free form histrionics.
Lucian Msamati’s Iago is also well created. He has a warm personality that is magnetic and we are drawn into his villainy, we watch him with the fascination we might have for a wild animal stalking prey and moving, bit by bit, in for the kill. At the height of his villainy he can still make us laugh, and, even nicer, there are times when he seems to hate himself for what he is embarked upon. But there is no turning back.
Strong performances all round. Joanna Vanderham creates a Desdemona entirely out of her depth, while Ayesha Dharker offers us an intelligent and vital Emilia. Jacob Fortune-Lloyd and James Corrigan firmly make their marks as Cassio and Rodrigo.
At 3h 25m this production is not for the faint hearted. It’s worth making the effort, though; it’s thoughtful and thought-provoking.
Nadia Albina – Duke of Venice
David Ajao – Montano
Scarlett Brookes – Bianca
James Corrigan – Roderigo
Ayesha Dharker – Emilia
Eva Feiler – Citizen of Venice
Owen Findlay – Gentleman of Cyprus
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd – Cassio
Guy Hughes – Soldier
Rina Mahoney – Citizen of Venice
Lucian Msamati – Iago
Ken Nwosu – Gentleman of Cyprus
Brian Protheroe – Brabantio
Hugh Quarshie – Othello
Jay Saighal – Gentleman of Cyprus
Tim Samuels – Lodovico
Joanna Vanderham – Desdemona
Director – Iqbal Khan
Set Designer – Ciaran Bagnall
Costume designer – Fotini Dimou
Lighting – Ciaran Bagnall
Music – Akintayo Akinbode
Sound – Andrew Franks
Movement – Diane Alison-Mitchell
Fight Director – Kev McCurdy