Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Othello - review

Written by: Woods (@Thomas_E_Woods)

Where did Woods watch it?
Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley 
Was Woods won over?

Given that most English A-Level students in the country have written about how Shakespeare’s themes are ‘timeless’ at least once, it is very welcome when a production really gets a modern adaptation so right.  Whereas so many adaptations offer two hours of convoluted and ham fisted attempts to shoehorn the most recent modern conflict into Anthony and Cleopatra, or awkwardly justify Elsinore as a police state gripped by terrorism threats, Culturcated Theatre company pulls off a stunning performance of Othello that works so well in a South East London Council estate that it almost feels like it was written for it.

Set against the backdrop of gang culture, without forcing the issue too much young Othello, A.K.A ‘The General’ has recently married Desdemona—in this production Brabantio’s sister as opposed to daughter. Disgruntled white upper-middle class Roderigo quarrels with Iago who he was paying to woo her on his behalf. The scene is set from the off for a tale of misinformation, jealousy and revenge. All three are of course timeless themes, but director Jennifer Lunn very cleverly brings it to modern audiences through realistic characters, and above all, smartphones. The mere introduction automatically brings to mind twitter, Facebook, BBM and a myriad of other ways of communicating. We have seen how damaging these social media forms can be with BNP Leader Nick Griffin’s recent comments, or the furore caused by @Rileyy69’s tweet to Tom Daley in the Olympics. It works with the setting, and allows us to see how whispers, rumours and jealousy can get out of hand with disastrous consequences.

The cast all deliver stellar performances; particular credit due to Gary Roe (Cassio) who bounds on to the stage with the utmost of energy and is utterly convincing as Othello’s newly promoted Lieutenant. Equally in the eponymous role Ntonga Mwanza’s excellent portrayal of Othello is totally moving, and one can’t help but share in his grief when he believes Desdemona to be unfaithful. The relationships between all characters are played with great believability, in particular Desdemona and Emilia’s friendship (Sofia Stuart and Zainab Hasan respectively). However perhaps the most striking aspect of the production is just how fun it is - the cast are so convincing as the characters and feel so in the moment that it makes the action on stage thoroughly engaging. Not only that, but there is a very real sense that the cast are actually enjoying the production, something that is a rare pleasure to behold.

There are a few gripes such as the addition of non-Shakespearian words here and there to make lines seemingly fit better; it feels unnecessary and would have been equally as strong without. A few lines are a bit unclear on delivery as well, but on the whole, these can be forgiven; a thoroughly strong, clever and most of all enjoyable production. 

This production runs until 10 November 2012. 

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1 comment:

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