20 Mar


Wilmott’s essential classic season ‘Enemies of the People’ concludes with an exploration of the minds of characters in Othello. In order to do this he has transported the action to The British Raj, so the honest and intelligent Indian, Othello is now a general in the British Army fighting for the British in his own occupied country.
It is somewhat alarming at first to have an overture consisting of an upright piano in charge of a man in a white suit, playing Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and ‘God Save the Queen’
But when the lights come up we are in the presence of a sumptuous and cunning Indian setting by Justin Williams and Johnny Ruse with glorious arches and and a split level acting area.
So we see the ‘Foreigner’ Othello who is in charge of the British occupiers, played in turbaned majesty by Matthew Wade. He is a gentle soul but has a commanding voice and is every inch a hero during the first act. His love for Desdemona comes over so powerfully that nothing could ever demean or destroy it. Desdemona played by Carlotta De Gregori is obviously a strong character and we suspect that it is she who initiated the relationship as she listened to the exotic Othello’s adventures. She marries him without feeling the need to inform her father who is at first horrified at his daughter marrying a non British man. The fact that she has deceived her father in this way gives Iago a perfect example of her as a deceitful person when he is initiating jealousy about her friendship with Cassio.
Rikki Lawton as Iago in this piece has the charm and ebullience of a young Ant (or Dec). His jolly demeanour makes him popular with everyone and he is treated throughout with implicit trust.. However we are never left in doubt as to his ambition and his hatred of Othello. Shakespeare makes use of his relationship with the audience to explain and share with us his villainy.
Lawton gives an excellent performance. His seduction of Michael Cassio when he discovers that he (played for some reason as a vicar in this production) has an alcohol problem is totally believable. As is his gradual breakdown of Othello’s love for Desdemona with the use of the famous Strawberry handkerchief. His wife Emilia is sympathetically played by Claire Lloyd and we understand the reasons for her not exposing his villainy earlier on.
This is an exciting production full of uninhibited drama and many exceptional riveting performances.
Othello is a strange play which a particular racial relativance to the present day. The fear and resentment of Iago to a successful person of ‘the wrong colour’.

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