Penny Flood is gripped by an imaginative retelling of the Bard's work
With Othello, the Riverside has come up with a real corker - Shakespeare’s classic tale of love, jealously and betrayal in a film noir setting.
It’s an imaginative, classy production and an opportunity to see one of the Bard’s great works done well, as the richness of Shakespeare’s language and his talent for story telling is given full rein.
Although it’s called Othello, it’s not so much about him as Iago. Othello is a general in the Venetian army and Iago is his standard bearer. As the play opens Iago has been passed over for promotion; he’s furious and out to get his own back on Othello, no matter who gets hurt along the way.
Of course it all ends badly but we have a lot of fun getting there because, although it’s a tragedy, there’s a lot of wit and humour, mostly from Iago who is played by Peter Lloyd.
Lloyd delivers a great performance, mingling charm and malice gaining the trust of those whom he intends to hurt, so that they actually like him and of course they believe his every word.
Othello is played by Stefan Adegbola: handsome, clever, smart, very much in love with his new wife Desdemona and slightly too good to be true. He’s easy prey for Iago because he’s arrogant enough to fall for Iago’s declarations of loyalty and he believes his lies.
Adegbola delivers the role with style and conviction, Othello might seem perfect but he’s a deeply flawed human being when he’s under emotional pressure. He can cope with wars, but he’s completely irrational when the stress is personal.
The play reaches a shocking end, worse than even Iago had expected, but the blame doesn’t lie just with him, there are others who could have made different decisions, which all adds to the tension.
Why didn’t they? Shakespeare doesn’t tell help us out here. He just leaves us with the dreadful realisation of the damage that can be wrought by jealousy and lack of trust.
It’s all great stuff that kept me gripped until the end.
Othello is on at Riverside Studios every day until February 8, with matinees on most days and post-show talks on January 28 and 30 and February 4 and 6.
School Workshops are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm followed by the 3.45pm performance, and at 6.45pm followed by the 7.30pm performance.
Orangutan Productions say they are a brand new and ambitious company, aiming to fill a niche of high-quality, off-west end Shakespeare in London. They aim to appeal to new audiences through highly stylised (portrayal) productions alongside cinematic marketing trailers, and pre-show workshops, to introduce and excite students about the beauty of classical theatre.
Box office 020 8237 1111 or book online
January 23, 2014