The latest Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory production of Othello feels discomfortingly relevant.
Othello, the Moor of Venice, a convert to Christianity, attempts to restore order and peace to those around him, yet is manipulated by the fateful hand of Iago. Othello is not a man who would conceive of murder. Yet, Iago's corruption of his ethics is intricately woven into him through realistic and well conceived untruths, until he is unable to establish an alternative reality.
Richard Twyman's direction of this text highlights the irrevocable harm which can be caused by fictitious facts and information. In a time where media and politicians are dictating sensationalised facts to their nations about differing cultures and nationalities, bending truths to best suit their agenda, this production highlights the ease with which cultural differences can be charged by those in power and twisted strategically by those in the guise of reliable figures.
Mark Lockyer’s Iago feels all too remnant of the ‘man in the pub’ type politician, whose approachability and normality can be used to gain trust among those who feel they can relate to him. He tackles this character brilliantly, drawing the audience in and allowing them to be party to his observations and witticisms. We can’t help but like the man we are listening to. Until his deceit goes too far. For Iago is a villain, and theatre goers are aware of this. But by drawing us in to him with such ease, we are able to comprehend just how easily the characters’ around him can be duped by his malice.
Othello is played with a deep, grounded, depth by Abraham Popoola and his enamoured flirtations with Desdemona (played beautifully by Norah Lopez Holden) are electrifying.
This is a powerful production of outstanding quality. A play that manages to feel utterly contemporary in spite of the passage of time.
(c) Naia Headland-Vanni 2017