We were leery about seeing Othello at SW Shakespeare. It is a tough play to do well and demands a very good cast and director. So we were pleasantly surprised by last weekend’s production.

The cast were generally quite good, able to speak the lines clearly and to project across the theatre. They were unfortunately constrained by their costumes. For some reason the play was set in mid 17th century.( If I had to guess a reason, it was probably because an adequate supply of costumes for that period were available at the right price.) Unfortunately, this meant large floppy hats with big feathers and jacket/capes slung over shoulders. The latter were made of some kind of vinyl, and were clearly stiff and heavy. Othello, who was quite good, looked so much better when he took his hat off and we could see his face and expressions. Played by Hope Brown, Othello managed the transition  from noble lover into jealous maniac subtly and effectively. His strangulation of Desdemona was very realistic and caused gasps in the audience.

Iago, played by Jesse James Kamps, in this production was a charming and cheerful villain. His asides to the audience were generally more funny than sly and it was harder to accept his underlying hatred and  treachery.

The only other cast member worthy of mention was Michael Bailey, who played Rodrigo.  Funny and sympathetic.

The director made the right decision and had very limited scenery and props. A set of white drapes hung down at the back to permit exits and entrances from there as well as the sides. One large box on the stage became everything else, table, wall, and the fatal bed. Red lights at the height of the death scene made me think I was back in Stratford watching the Chris Abrahams production!

We now have high hopes for Comedy of Errors this Friday.



About cathyriggall

Theatre junkie, who thinks live theatre is the ultimate form of living on the edge. You never know what will happen when an actor steps on the stage.
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One Response to Othello

  1. keithhpotter says:

    I generally agree with Cathy, except for the cast’s tendency to stand facing the audience when they were supposed to be talking to one another. Lack of confidence that the will make themselves heard?
    The floppy hats also fell off at disconcerting times. When the hats and vinyl jackets disappeared in the second half it was much better for all concerned.
    Bailey’s Rodrigo was surprisingly good. It is a character that can appear a buffoon, if you notice him at all; Bailey made him a person.
    Brown got better as the play went on. In the early stages he had a tendency to shout what appeared to be random words – as if he suddenly remembered he’d been told to project. However, this settled down and I agree that he managed the transition and the grief well. so, overall, pretty good.
    Kamp’s Iago was somewhat similar to Graham Abbey, but with Abbey you could always hear the hatred vibrating under the surface. Kamp missed that dimension.
    Cathy didn’t mention the women. She had initially disliked Amanda Renee Baker’s Desdemona; she did not feel the character’s innocence came across, but I think she came to share my view that Baker did quite well.
    It was Jordan Letson’s Emilia I had trouble with. I found her performance wooden with cartoony gestures. She needs to tune it down and live the role.

    We’ll be seeing Bailey, Baker, Kamps and Letson, along with several other cast members, again in Comedy of Errors, so it will be interesting to see them in a quite different play. Last year, there was a good As You Like It after a fairly terrible Lear, with largely the same casts. I guess the director really does make a difference!

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