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Othello | Riverside Studios

What really sets this new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, is the decision by director Sinead Rushe to have three actors playing Iago all at once, creating a completely new show. Othello is famous for its themes of betrayal, jealousy, loyalty and manipulation (not to mention being one of the only black Shakespearian characters), and this creative decision really helps to focus on creating a tense environment. This is effectively done by using the three actors to surround and overwhelm the other characters, by creeping or whispering to them. Also, there is an incredible use of delayed, overlapping and synchronised dialogues, as well as often dividing Iago's lengthier monologues between the three actors, becoming a conversation within himself and creating a stimulating discussion. Whilst Iago chooses not to reveal his intentions in the play, by using this three-actor approach, we’re able to see the ideas form and develop, and just how layered and decisive his intentions are. It’s also important to note that all three actors are present on stage at the same time when conversing with all characters, other than Othello who faces them one at a time.

Michael C. Fox, Orlando James and Jeremy Newmarket Jones work well together, each holding their own ground and providing memorable performances. They have an incredible ability to both weld the hefty monologues whilst switching between emotions with whiplash speed, along with an effortless movement to regroup and spread out across the stage. Leading man Martins Imhangbe has a particularly commanding stage presence. Portraying the titular character, Imhangbe packs a hefty punch of a performance, with his forceful and passionate dialogue delivery, anchoring his performance in a more conventional Shakespeare monologue. Rachel-Leah Hosker does a brilliant job of playing the dual characters ‘Emilia’ and ‘Roderigo’. Rose Riley shines as the kind and spirited Desdemona, yet it’s her freestyle dance movement at the start that really captures the character’s essence. Ryan O’Doherty does well as the innocent and nobel Michael Cassio, yet it felt as though his role was overshadowed and Doherty ultimately underused.

With original music by Michael C.Fox, the show mostly uses music to elevate tension, build momentum for more emotional moments, or to denote Desdemona’s free-spirit. Rose Riley is given a hauntingly beautiful number to perform. The characters are dressed in modern attire and by rooting the costumes in clothes that we are more familiar with, we’re able to determine the character’s personalities (and rank) by their clothes. Desdemona is given loose and flowing trousers and a white shirt, Othello in a crisp and tucked in buttoned black shirt, and the three Iago’s matching with the many layers of clothes. The set is rather minimalistic, often completely devoid of any props or background. This makes every prop's appearance more impactful.

There’s a particularly incredible stand out scene in the show, where a microphone is dragged along the floor, creating a rumbling sound. This builds into a full blown storm with the help of tapping tables, blowing into the microphone, a large blue cloth and beautiful choreography that denotes the waves and creates a stunning visual, proving that sometimes less is more. By adding a rippling dim blue lighting, the show creates a sense of urgency and chaos and the choreography here was simply breathtaking. Both costume and set was designed by Natalie Pryce.

The fight scenes (Yaris Dor) are also brilliantly choreographed, with equally excellent lighting and sound design (Alex Lewer and Ali Taie). The scuffle of the fight primarily happens in the dark, with still snapshots of the fight in a sharp spotlight, accompanied by beats. It does well to emphasis the shocking violence of these fights and the drastic downfall of the characters. Overall, this production is an impressive reimagining of Othello, packing a hefty punch of a performance. Othello plays at Riverside Studios until the 29th October - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

{AD | Gifted} Written by Oviya | Photography by Mark Douet

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