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Veni Vidi Theatre Company present

Othello

Photo by Shaheen Razzaq

 

by William Shakespeare

 

Direction & Adaptation: Natalie-Ann Downs

 

Lighting Design: Anna Sbokou

 

Set Design: Dagmara Baran

 

Theatre on the Lawn at Lauderdale House

 

10-13 August 2010

 

 

 

 


 

 

A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Lauderdale House is located halfway up Highgate Hill. It was built in the 16th century as a mansion for the Lord Mayor of London. The terraced gardens encompass 29 acres which retain a stately, elegance, however the weather for tonight's performance put a bit of a dampener on the proceedings to say the least.

Othello first saw the light of day on the court of King JamesI on November 1, 1604, performed by the King's Men. The play was written between Hamlet (1600) and King Lear (1604-5) during a time that is often referred to as his “great tragic period”. Othello (Matthew Wade) is a moor and a general in the Venetian army who enjoys a privileged status in their society despite the colour of his skin. Othello marries the chaste Desdemona (Tabitha Becker-Kahn) much to her father, Brabantio's (Andrew McDonald) rage and takes her with him to Cyprus, to command his troops against the Turks. “Honest” Iago (Rob Maloney) is Othello's most trusted comrade but his least genuine.  Iago contrives to turn Othello against Desdemona for his own nefarious purposes. In order to do so, he manipulates Roderigo (James MacLaren), a foppish admirer of Desdemona to carry out his dirty work and frames the trustworthy Cassio (Benjamin Fisher) to incite Othello's jealousy. Once he has planted the seeds of doubt in Othello's brain, they consume him with irreversible consequences.

Other than the unfortunate downpour which carried on throughout most of the performance, the outdoor setting of Lauderdale House is a striking setting for the play. A square stage is set at the centre of the garden and the actors exploit the environment to its full potential. Iago and Roderigo creep along paths behind the audience, Othello storms through a central aisle and Brabantio rails from a window in Lauderdale House directly opposite the stage. Downs has directed the action to leap out at you from any direction exploiting the length and breadth of the entire environment.

Bright white lights illuminate the stage which was shielded by umbrellas from the torrential rainfall, while a row of light bulbs line the central aisle. Sbokou exploits the darkness of the evening, as the overcast sky fades into night, she has Iago and Roderigo carry lanterns enhancing the atmosphere of villainy. The night also brings a paradoxical intimacy despite our being outside - Downs explains: “my intention was always to see if it was possible to take an outdoor space and convince an audience that they're not outdoors.”

Live music is performed by violinists and percussionists adding to the sense of grandeur and accentuating moments of tension and Othello's disintegration.

The acting throughout is of a competent standard and the cast's greatest achievement is in their ability to make Shakespeare's language easily understood, they deliver their lines in such a way as to actually express the sentiments of their character with clarity and substance.

Matthew Wade with his curly hair and beard has the the archetypal features for Othello as he stands proudly in boots, leather trousers and red/ gold doublet. He swings from charismatic leader and star struck lover to jealous victim and cruel husband with convincing characterisation. Wade roars over the other members of the cast as he swaggers forwards, but he is eventually reduced to a mumbling paranoiac after Iago's loaded suggestions unbind him.

Rob Maloney's Iago in tunic and armoured plates on his upper arm appears as a bawdy, aggressive character in the company of his fellow soldiers. However in his soliloquys, he reveals his devious nature, informing the audience of his insidious plans. Maloney's asides manage to balance the irony of being constantly referred to as “honest” Iago with an awareness of the over bearing fact that he is the arch villain. He succeeds in allowing us, as a modern audience, to take his character as the Vice with a pinch of salt without resorting to a wink wink, nudge, nudge. Maloney's most telling interpretation of Iago's unsatisfactory motives are his final scene where he kicks Cassio's crutch, this felt a bit weak, as  it seemed to suggest he just enjoys bullying people rather than something more malevolent. 

Desdemona is played by Tabitha Becker-Kahn in a white dress and red/gold corset. Becker-Kahn plays the devoted wife with flirtatious innocence, her husky voice teasing Othello amorously. This coquettish quality Becker-Kahn portrays initially attracts him, but finally it becomes the source of her undoing, for it allows doubt to enter his mind and jealousy to corrupt him.

Laura Bacon plays Emilia in a white dress. She powerfully communicates the outspoken nature of her character and her frustrated impotence to help her lady. In the scene on Desdemona's bed, Bacon presents a great sense of loss and devotion with elegance and stillness.

Only in England would an audience patiently endure a production of Othello, while a torrential downpour cascades upon them with only bin liners for protection. Surely testament to this production’s entertaining quality and the Bard's timeless resonance. We can only hope that the sun shines on the Veni Vidi's version of Othello till the end of its run, for they have done justice to a great play and admirably continued to perform, regardless of the tempest. I may have been soaked to the bone, but their production was watertight.

 

 

Lauderdale House
 Waterlow Park
Highgate Hill
London
 N6 5HG T

 020 8348 8716
enquiries@lauderdale.org.uk

10-13 August 2010

On the day: £12 adults £10 concs £8 under 16s
In advance: £10 adults £8 concs £6 under 16s

http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/venividitheatre

 

 

 

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