'Othello' review or 'Speed. Dating.'

'Othello', William Shakespeare/Ignace Cornelissen
Unicorn Theatre, 8th February 2018
Written for Time Out



Othello and Desdemona fancy each other – a lot. Here they are at a club, shortly after they’ve first met: ‘I think she’s hot. She has a great ass.’ Later that night, the two marry and then – well – things turn sour pretty darn quickly. This Othello isn’t hanging around. It’s been adapted for 8-12 year olds by Belgian playwright Ignace Cornelissen and, whilst it isn’t as subtle and magical as his other Shakespearean adaptation – Henry the Fifth – it pulses with energy and intent.
Much has been streamlined and simplified. The cast is only five actors deep and is all-black, which does make the idea of Othello’s ‘otherness’ a little hard to grasp. The dress is modern and James Button’s design is sparse, with a hanging curtain cleverly used to represent a club, a ship tossed about at sea and perhaps even a crematorium. It’s a subtle design, which gradually tingles with a sort of spirituality, as the spectre of death overtakes the promise of love.
Director Ian Nicholson has painted his production with broad brush-strokes. Every sneaky move that Iago makes – in his attempts to dupe Othello, undo Cassio (Ronald Nsubuga) and undermine Desdemona (Ayoola Smart) – is highlighted with brooding music and glinting grins to the audience. Lawrence Walker has an eerie stage presence but an Iago this crass is hard to really hate.
Okorie Chukwu is a surprisingly endearing Othello, who starts out as a rowdy show off and ends up a broken brute, his hard-as-nails body now slack. His soldier’s tongue turns poetic (‘Where are your hopes now?’) as he wakes up to his nightmare, as a few solitary stars shine brightly in the dark sky overhead.

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