22nd September 2018
Writing: Dan Adams (Year 13)
Photography: The Oxford Playhouse
Editing: Ben Corby (Year 9)
Shakespeare’s Othello is the tragedy of a Moroccan captain and his newly-wed bride Desdemona. The story follows Iago manipulating Othello and other characters which eventually leads to the couple’s death. The interesting part about the play is that Iago’s motive is never made explicitly clear, some critics pin it to racism while others blame jealousy as Iago himself calls it 'the green-eyed monster'.
Director Richard Twyman decided to play up the Islamic elements of Othello’s character’s history which made the sting of the casual racism among the characters even more poignant. The opening had a ceremony with Othello gifting Desdemona the (McGuffin) handkerchief. The other effect from this change was the willow scene (historically cut due to it being seen as feminist) which had an all-new song to fit with this change. Othello’s divided duties could be seen with his Christian crucifix necklace which housed a secret blade that he used to kill himself at the end of the play.
Victor Oshin was an excellent Othello, despite his young age, which enhanced the romantic connection with his on-stage wife Desdemona, played by Kitty Archer. Paul McEwan’s Iago was a subtle affair whose menace grew as the performance went on. This was a drastic change for the English students as we were used to Rory Kinnear’s National Theatre rendition of the character which we had seen in class. Rather than Kinnear’s portrayal of Iago’s motive being primarily class-based, McEwan had a rather slimy and two-faced approach which could be seen as being motivated by the age difference between the older Iago and younger Othello.
The tech for the performance was impressive. It took a minimalistic approach to set design relying on vertical strips of light which surrounded the stage, making the performance much more claustrophobic. The best use of these lights was during a party scene where raucous and boisterous drunken indulgence was accompanied by Slaves' Cheer Up London, which highlighted the modern take on the performance took. The costumes were similarly minimalist with stand-out attire going to Othello who wore all black for the majority of the performance with slim-fit joggers with emphasised his soldier physique, Desdemona wore wide-leg trousers and Iago donned more of a workman’s gear.
All of these elements combined towards a thrilling and emotional rendition of the classic tragedy which still remains relevant to this day. Thanks must go to the English Department for organising this visit.