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Othello

Presented by Independent Theatre Inc.
Date Reviewed: Saturday 30th July 2011

Venue: Odeon Theatre, Queen Street Norwood
Season: 29th July – August
Duration: 3 hours, includes 15 minute interval
Tickets: adult $30/ pensioner/senior$25/ student $15/ child under 13 $12
Bookings: Independent Theatre Inc or BASS 131-246 or http://www.bass.net.au

Othello is a tragic tale written by William Shakespeare more than 400 years ago and is a story of love, jealousy, prejudice, good and evil. It follows the sad fate of Othello, a black man or ‘moor’, who is a General in the Venetian Army. Othello is a good, strong and honest man, who is played beautifully by Liberian Actor Shedrick Yarkpai. Yarkpai brings a certain depth to the character of Othello who is deeply in love with his wife, the virtuous Desdemona, daughter of Venetian Senator Brabantio. Kate Englefield delivers a wonderful performance as the loving wife of Othello; strong and yet helpless in meeting her fate.

The play is superbly cast and all deliver a solid and entertaining performance under the skillful direction of Rob Croser.

Nicholas Bishop is brilliant as the scheming and calculating Captain Iago, hell bent on ruining Othello, as a result of being overlooked for a promotion, in addition to a strong element of racial prejudice.

The play begins with Brabantio finding out that Othello has married Desdemona, and accusing Othello of witchcraft in order to seduce his daughter. Othello defends himself and explains that it wasn’t witchcraft but rather his stories of his life before arriving in Venice that captured her heart. Desdemona is called to the Court and declares her love for Othello to her father, who eventually accepts that they are in love. He feels that Desdemona has deceived him, and warns Othello that she could deceive him also.

Othello and Desdemona leave Venice for Cyprus, as Othello is called to help defend Cyprus from invading Turkish fleets. Iago is sent over too, playing the part of the ever loyal ensign. Iago hatches cunning plans, using Desdemona’s virtue against her, and planting the seed of suspicion of Desdemona’s infidelity with Lieutenant Cassio, played by Andre Vafiadis, in Othello’s mind. Othello believes Iago to be an honest man and ultimately places more faith in him than in his own wife and is tormented with this possibility of Desdemona being unfaithful.

Iago uses everyone around him as pawns, including a young soldier, Roderigo, played by Nicholas Ely. There are some funny moments between Iago and Roderigo, Nicholas Ely does well to play the foolish Roderigo whose infatuation with Desdemoda opens him up to Iago’s manipulation. Iago’s wife, Emilia, is Desdomona’s close companion, played by Lyn Wilson, who gives a solid and convincing performance. Emilia unwittingly contributes to the downfall of Desdemona, and ultimately exposes her own husband as the villain.

Lighting and sound were effective adding good dramatic effect to Iago’s speeches to the audience. The set was simple, not changing during the performance, helping the focus to remain with the character and the story as it unfolds.

Othello’s costumes are powerful, transforming him from the General and leader of men to a man who has the same love, desires and vulnerabilities as all others. They reflected the mood in each scene, and complemented Shedrick Yarkpai’s strong performance.

The story of Othello is a reminder that virtue and love may not be enough in the face of evil and jealousy. It also gets you to think about about racial prejudice and how relevant this issue still is more than 400 years later.

Reviewed by Kathryn Noble, Performing Arts Critic, Glam Adelaide.

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