by Trevor Michael Georges.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard (corner of Tooley St & Bermondsey Street) SE1 2TF To 12 June 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 June.
Othello gets a new guise.
Metta Theatre’s production may take a lot away from Shakespeare but it adds something to Zimbabwe, where this modern-day Othello is set. In place of Ottoman threats to Europe are the Zimbabwean ‘vets’ attacking White-owned farms, like those of the authoritative Vick and Howard, furious at his daughter Diana’s elopement with Otiena, Black leader of a mercenary militia protecting the farms. Such a force, apparently, couldn’t exist in Zimbabwe.
With his White assistant Ian – the Iago figure – and Black soldiers including the Cassio-like Kagiso, Otieno is an imposing figure, bringing calm even with Howard’s gun pointing at him, until doubts about Diana are stirred.
The broken bracelet replacing Shakespeare’s handkerchief actually seems a plot improvement, and while the language can be attenuated at times as the expression of characters’ feelings, the immediacy of the threatened farms gives new urgency to the balance between public concerns and the private ones that overrule them. And while Ian has a few brief soliloquies, there’s no need to go searching for motives amid the racial tension.
Otieno is a mercenary, but also opposed to Mugabe, so principle underpins his work, which is undermined as Trevor Michael Georges’ stern figure moves into perplexity, his military camouflage changed for a red vest. And Sîan Goff’s Diana, a lively child-bride, moves from the assertive run at her first appearance, chiding her father, to the curled sadness of her final night.
Transient society exists amid perpetual nature, visualised in the contrast between plastic beer-crates and the red sand floor. The crates are eventually assembled as Diana’s bed, which is then fragmented by her husband’s attack. Such physical starkness is matched by the sudden snap-starts and ends to scenes. And the fragility of human existence is suggested in Diana’s friendship from childhood with Bamidele, who combines the other two women in Othello.
Acting is always reliable, but alongside the author’s forceful performance, Goff’s early joyous naivety turning to defeated love and Jack Hawkins, tall and decisive as Ian, repeatedly pulling practical jokes and telling others they should know when he’s joking, before he starts getting rough for real, stand-out.
Otieno: Trevor Michael Georges.
Ian: Jack Hawkins.
Diana: Sîan Goff.
Bamidele: Rhoda Ofori-Attah.
Rufaro: David Ajao.
Kagiso: Kevin Golding.
Howard: David Charles.
Vick: Michael J Hayes.
Director: Poppy Burton-Morgan.
Designer/Lighting: William Reynolds.
Costume: Katharine Heath.
Assistant director: Erica Miller.