Shakespeare’s tragedy about a Moor driven to jealous rage through the manipulation of a vindictive Iago has been adapted for contemporary theatre innumerable times, however this production by the English Touring Theatre, Oxford Playhouse, and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory can stand amongst the best and most memorable.
From the modernisation through Desdemona and Othello’s raucous wedding party and simple touches such as emoji balloons, this well-loved play is given a modern twist which appeals to the modern audience. Its core issues, after all, speak to society even 400 years after its conception with its themes of religion, race, and gender.
Although the term ‘Moor’ was, in Shakespearian times, almost synonymous to ‘Muslim’, Othello has not often been portrayed being of Muslim faith. This level brings more depth to the production; Iago is Venetian society: colonial, oppressive, and relentlessly working to destroy the honourable Othello.
Shakespeare’s trademark complex stories of deception, sometimes used for comedy and other times for tragedy, is contrasted with the sparse set. The audience can fully experience Othello in an unembellished form and empathise with his tragic end. This empathy is furthered by Victor Oshin’s masterful portrayal in his professional stage debut. From Othello’s iconic monologue, to the striking image of Othello raising his hands in prayer, to his easy chemistry with Desdemona (Archer) the audience is drawn in by Othello’s relationship with Desdemona, and Othello himself.
Paul McEwan’s portrayal of Iago, arguably one of the most hated villains in Western canon, speaks to his wealth of experience as an actor. His expert handling of this iconic and many-faceted character is very much to be admired—and enjoyed.
Othello is showing at the New Wolsey Theatre from the 30th October to the 3rd November and is not to be missed, either by lovers of the Bard or those who have not touched Shakespeare since their school days!
Box Office: 01473 295900 – www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
Review: Julia Mackenzie, Ipswich24 Magazine
Picture: Helen Murray