As per convention in the Wanamaker, candles are the only lighting – but McDougall cleverly makes use of the glimmer and shadows to suggest doubt and deceit. With some scenes in almost complete darkness, and the flames being constantly snuffed, she calls into question Othello’s evidence against Desdemona. Designer Fly Davis is playful and fresh in using wax light – a glowing disco ball with mirrors and candles ignites the party scene, and spinning chandeliers simulate the tempest.
Kurt Egyiawan’s Othello is sincere and empathetic, even when dangerously violent. Fully realised and tortured, he provides nuance and insight to Othello – a general, a lover and a former slave. Natalie Klamar’s Desdemona is young and naive but with a fervent moral conscious that boils over. Their love, beautifully rendered, feels warm and profound. Thalissa Teixeira’s Emilia is also compelling, struggling between loyalty to her mistress and obedience to her husband.
Horton’s Cassio as a woman works to an extent, with moments of real insight – Iago’s ‘Why then I think Cassio’s an honest woman’ is delivered brilliantly as if an oxymoron. And her relationship with Nadia Albina’s Bianca is honest and heartfelt. But without changing other aspects of the text, and with an unclear time setting, it becomes difficult to assess how Cassio’s status as captain, and her relationship with women, is judged by the society in which she lives. The Katy Perry I Kissed a Girl reference feels too obvious and reductive; although admittedly a joke, it undoes the potential complexity of Cassio’s position.
But the real trouble lies with Iago. Sam Spruell, although snappy and spiteful, fails to provide Iago with a justifiable reason to hate the Moor and so remains an archetype of villainy. He observes most of the action from the audience, and sometimes acts as director of events. But if he is a director, he is one without a clear vision.
Overall, however, McDougall’s Othello is ambitious, a bold and touching production. Perhaps most importantly, it foregrounds the complexities and injustices latent in Shakespeare’s tragedy and invites us to consider their relevance today.
|What||Othello, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review|
|Where||Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 21 New Globe Walk, London, SE1 9DT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Blackfriars (underground)|
23 Feb 17 – 16 Apr 17, 12:00 AM
|Price||£10 - £62|
|Website||Click here for more information|