Written by Zoe, Year 13
Sinead Rushe’s production of Othello expertly focuses on the psyches of the characters and offers a very raw experience of how characters interact with themselves in monologues rather than just how they interact with the audience as in the original production.
One of the clearest ways this is completed is through the character, or characters, of Iago. Initially, I thought that using multiple actors would follow the ‘two-faced Janus’ route and show the personas of Iago. It was a very pleasant surprise when instead of personas, they were his thoughts and his mental state interacting with each other. Rather than being the characters he creates, they are the characters and consecutive thoughts he does not create, that are in his mind. It was also incredible to see the Iago’s interact with each other rather than never meeting and never communicating. It shows Iago is either 3 steps, 3 minds ahead, or overwhelmed by the few miniscule failures in his plan. And when all 3 Iago’s interact with other characters such as Cassio or Roderigo, they are the overwhelming force and perfectly synchronised in their destruction.
Because Iago now has himself to talk to in his monologues, the role of talking to the audience befalls Othello. His awareness of the audience means that he is constantly proving himself to us and his monologues are accounts of self-worth. This is proved in his scene with Brabantio where the audience are the ‘reverend signors’ and are the judges of Othello’s actions rather than the accomplices in Iago’s crime.
All characters are crafted meticulously, Desdemona’s Willow Song complimented the opening contemporary dance well and posits her free, but also delicate, nature with ease. Cassio’s nobleness, and his slight naivety, is enough to cause the audience to grieve his reputation with him. Assisting with Iago in bringing Honnigman’s ‘chief humourist’ interpretation to life, Roderigo appears so much more gullible and so easily cheated that the audience is humoured by Iago’s good luck. Emilia, like many others, is similarly naïve but has a spirit and increasing liberalness that prevents her from fading into the background.
In terms of art direction, I greatly enjoyed the infusion of various cultures to put more of a sense of living and experience into the play, before the downfall. Folk music, chants, even the songs in Iago and Cassio’s drunk stupor subtly build the world around the characters which was previously focused on simply the military setting. The use of sound throughout, especially in the ship scene, feels more dynamic due to its acoustic generation rather than constantly playing sound effects. Lighting was also brilliant; I loved the use of blackouts through fight scenes to show the brutality of a battle from the increasingly violent poses in the brief flashes of light. This form of chiaroscuro, varying from comforting summer luminosity to glaring interrogative spotlights helps highlight the contrast in the play’s moments of solace and more frequent moments of drama.
It was an incredible production, and the use of a smaller cast and stage helped in creating a more intimate connection with the audience, and we are forced to face the tragedy with no ability to avoid it or turn away (if anyone even had the desire).