Othello, Shakespeare’s Globe


By Laura Kressly

Who knew one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies could be funny? Director and composer Claire van Kampen has tapped into a rare rhythm that sees Iago as a weaselly, clownish man lacking power and finesse, yet still manages to twist Othello into knots. Played by Mark Rylance, one of the finest actors of his generation, his performance is the strongest feature of this production.

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Othello, for remotegoat.com

The Rose Playhouse is one of the most unique fringe theatres in London. On a small wooden platform, theatre productions and their audiences overlook a dim, concrete cavern surrounding a pool of water. At the bottom of the pool, illuminated by red rope lighting, are the foundations of the Rose Theatre. Built in 1587, it hosted some of Shakespeare’s plays; Shakespeare may have even performed here himself. It is fitting that amongst these ruins, Time Zone Theatre produces a version of Othello set in modern London that addresses the universal themes of greed, ruthlessness and jealousy.

Five actors perform a 90-minute edit of the play. Clothed in black, white and gray business dress, they initially personify conformity and professionalism. The free flowing champagne and 24-hour schedules gradually break down this image, framing Cassio’s fight and Iago’s ambition very well. The intimate relationships within the play are less realistic within this context, but not wholly unbelievable.

The opening of the play is a fantastic, fast paced, televisual montage of Iago’s monologues, movement, sound and tableaux. The sound design by Philip Matejtschuk and movement direction by director Pamela Schermann were the most effective elements of the production. The pace evoked the city environment, and actors often had a laptop or paperwork with them. This performance style was not maintained, however. The characters stopped working so frequently, focusing the action on the characters’ relationships rather than the intensity of their lifestyle. The place slowed and the urgency was lost, transforming into a generic Shakespeare production in modern dress.

Of the five performers, Trevor Murphy as Iago is the highlight. He effectively transitions b a power-hungry middle manager determined to undermine his boss to a subservient yes-man. Denholm Spurr as Cassio also delivers a high-calibre performance. Both have a natural, watchable intensity.

These contemporary city workers driven by money and excessive lifestyles provokingly juxtapose the backdrop of 16th century ruins. In both worlds, those at the top of society hold inordinate power over the little people, social progression is an illusion and human life is disposable. Whether or not you believe life is better now than it was back in the good ole’ days, Time Zone Theatre bleakly demonstrates that despite modern technology and globalization, human nature certainly has not evolved.

Intention:  ☆ ☆ ☆

Outcome: ☆ ☆

Star Rating: ☆ ☆ 1/2

Re-posted from http://www.remotegoat.com/uk/review_view.php?uid=11716