Saturday, October 15, 2016

OTHELLO



Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Peter Evans
Bell Shakespeare
Canberra Theatre Centre to October 22

Review by Len Power 14 October 2016

It’s rare these days to see a production of a Shakespeare play set in the period in which it was written.  It’s great when it works but it can seem merely indulgent when it doesn’t.  This modern day Bell Shakespeare production of ‘Othello’ works so well it feels like it was written yesterday!

The action is played out on an imposing set, designed by Michael Hankin, which gives the impression of a coldly grand public building.  Minimal props are used and a long table is spun around by the cast to signify various scenes, locations and a sense of separating conflict between characters.  The lighting design by Paul Jackson is bold and imaginative, especially in its atmospheric use of mobile lighting.  The combination of set design and lighting is especially effective in the bedroom scene at the end of the play.  Sound design by Steve Toulmin is equally well done, especially in the startling storm sequence.

The cast of nine all give excellent performances.  Ray Chong Nee as Othello is an imposing military leader who displays great tenderness in his love for Desdemona.  He makes his gradual descent into madness through jealousy something we can relate to and his agonised emotions are quite moving at the end.

Yalin Ozucelik gives the most real Iago performance I have ever seen.  It is totally believable that Othello should trust and listen to the lies created by this evil man.  All charm and wit on the surface when relating to other characters, it is only in his soliloquies and private moments with his wife that we see the sociopath underneath.

As Desdemona, Elizabeth Nabben gives a great performance of a spirited modern woman caught up in a situation that she cannot fathom and Joanna Downing as Iago’s wife, Emilia, provides a strong portrayal of a woman who knows the dark side of her husband but unwittingly assists him in his evil plan.

There was fine work from Edmund Lembke-Hogan as the dim-witted and doomed Roderigo, Michael Wahr as Cassio, Alice Keohavong as Bianca and Huw McKinnon and James Lugton were impressive in smaller roles.

Peter Evans has directed a handsome-looking production which moves swiftly but is very clear in its language delivery and in the depth of its characters.  That the play seems quite modern is an extraordinary achievement.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program from 9.00am on Saturdays.

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