Previously presented by “Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory”(STF) and the “English Touring Theatre” (ETT) to critical acclaim, this is a modern dress, retelling of Shakespeare’s, dreadfully sad, tragedy. It was written almost exactly a thousand years after the death of Mohammed and the formation of the Muslim religion, but it is even more relevant today, four hundred years after the writing, as it was in Shakespeare’s time.
After a critically-acclaimed run at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre, Othello has finally arrived at Wilton’s Music Hall, where it is staged in the round. Wilton’s is wonderfully refurbished and not in any way spoiled. Still a little shabby, but enormously chic. The stage resembles a boxing ring without the ropes, even down to the big microphone in the middle of the ring, hanging on a cable from above.
It might be easy to believe that the timing of this, reflects on modern day anti-Muslim prejudice and the Trump concept of ‘alternative facts’, however this production is very faithful to the original play, which shows how Shakespeare’s words have an enduring relevance. Calling the story racially prejudiced is to some extent true, however, had Othello been a white senior officer, the story could easily have been just the same. I feel that Othello’s downfall was not due to racial prejudice but to other’s, lust, deceit and, as Shakespeare puts it, “that green eyed monster” jealousy.
The actors are all remarkable. Norah Lopez Holden as Desdemona, who was a young but strong woman, was an actress showing excellent skill, even when being carried around the stage playfully by the big, powerful Othello. Desdemona’s young innocent companion, Emilia was played by Katy Stephens, she is an amazingly fine and subtle actress. Lastly I will mention the dominant, physical actor, Abraham Popoola who not only shows a brilliant acting technique but manages to lift and twirl Desdemona, at the same time, with commendable ease.
This play is a wonderful production and highly recommended. Do go down to the Wilton’s Music Hall, close to the Tower of London, before it’s last performance on 4 June 2017, you will not be disappointed, only I suggest you take a cushion with you, two hours sitting on those rock hard chairs, rates as heroic in my book.
Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: The Other Richard