A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

Custom/Practise presents

 

Othello

 

 

By William Shakespeare

 

Directed by Suba Das

 

Rose Theatre Bankside

 

5 – 30 July 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Custom/Practice’s ‘enter if you dare’ promotion tactics for its production of Othello promises nothing short of a ‘chamber of terror’, a bold Shakespearean horror film, crowned with an ominous over 18 rating. Promises however, are sometimes hard to keep, and what proved to be an enthralling production was let down by this overemphasis on its bloodthirsty vows of terror. There certainly was blood, disturbing scenes of torture and chilling murder, but not much beyond what can be expected of Shakespearean violence. With superb performances, a delicate balance of psychological and physical horror and fluid directorial vision from Suba Das, the production need not have promoted itself as a ‘horror experience’, but instead been confident enough to rely on its numerous strengths.

Believed to be the very first theatre on Bankside, the archaeological remains of The Rose Theatre are of immense cultural and historical significance. Combined with its aesthetic of ruinous gloom, this underground theatrical cavern is made of remarkably atmospheric proportions. Lending itself well to the slow building tension along the sinister twists and turns of Othello, the backdrop of crumbling theatrical foundations, protected by a shallow pool of water had a continuously haunting presence.

A tale of love, envy, manipulation and the dreadful consequences of unbridled jealousy, Othello may be one of the most tragic in the playwright’s repertoire. Hell bent on destroying the ‘Moor’ Othello, conniving Iago schemes his way through the play in an attempt to convince Othello that his beloved wife Desdemona has been unfaithful. Jealousy turns to violent madness, as the final and fatal consequences unfold.

Littered with a soundscape of muffled cries and whispers, creeks, bangs and dripping water, the space is repeatedly flooded with uncanny echoes and noises. Performed in the tiny space that overlooks the site, Das takes advantage of every nook and cranny, with characters almost appearing to emerge out of the woodwork. In the opening scene, a shadowy figure can be seen across the ancient foundations of The Rose, pacing with a ghostly and unnerving presence. Sadly this highly effective and intriguing use of the broader space is not repeated, and I couldn’t help but feel that this was wasted potential. Aside from this, the cast don’t put a foot wrong and deliver a finely tuned performance.

Cary Crankson is simply outstanding as Iago, earthy and passionate, whilst maintaining the character’s sinister eloquence. Clambering all over the set, he is a constant presence on stage. At times he hauls pieces of the set across the stage, and sometimes controls sound effects and scene changes with a wave of his hand, a menacing conductor guiding his orchestra of horrors. Nana Amoo-Gottfried has real presence as Othello, handling his descent into madness with intelligence and control. Both actors are well supported by the remaining cast, all of whom manage to showcase their talent.

Aside from its over zealous, and fairly exaggerated ‘horror experience’ promotion, Custom/Practice present a production of Othello that reaches into the very core of the text, exhuming its dreadful passion and disturbing portrayals of human nature to great effect.

Box office: 020 7261 9565

www.rosetheatre.org.uk

The Rose Theatre Bankside
56 Park Street, London, SE1 9AS

Tue – Sat 7:30pm

£12/£10 Concessions



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