Director Gemma Bodinetz’s modern take on Shakespearean tragedy Othello embraces theatre’s ability to inspire imagination; gender-blind and colour-blind directorial decisions are centralised in this modern production, however their effectiveness was undermined by an overall lack of coherence throughout the performance.
Gender flipping in Shakespeare is a recycled re-vision, yet Golda Roshueval masters her title role as “The Moor” in an entirely modern setting. Having already played Mercutio in Daniel Kramer’s Romeo and Juliet, exploring gender and sexuality aren’t entirely new to Roshueval. She was both magnificent and nuanced as both commanding military leader and gentle, caring lesbian-lover to Desdemona. Roshueval’s immaculate articulation and use of proxemics meant audiences were consistently alert and vigilant in the fast-paced world of Othello, from the moment of the Court scene up until suicide at its tragic end.
However, confusion and incoherence between actors was at times distracting. Of course, all audience members were aware of watching the first ever female Othello, but between actors there was uncertainty in what to address Othello as. Pronouns were frequently mixed-up, whilst Desdemona replaced ‘My Lord’ with ‘My love’ altering their love from that of dominant man and submissive woman into harmonious, equal women. Whilst this was a positive, modern alteration of Shakespeare’s script, it was only a shame that such changes were not consistent.
Undoubtedly there were Liverpudlian traits in this production, which added to its charm. Scouse accents came thick and fast, as did their fashion choices. Roderigo (Marc Elliot) adorned pink chinos with Louis Vuitton accessories whilst sassy Bianca (Leah Gould) opted for a bodycon dress and impractical high heels, whilst followed around by Cassio (Cerith Flinn). Such moments of eccentricity and vibrancy provided glimmers, quite literally, of much needed relief comedy.
Molly Lacey Davies, Natalie Johnson and Jocelyn Meall’s staging was simplistic and minimalist. A particularly impressive construction was deployed for Desdemona’s murder, where white heavenliness overtook the stage through netting being pulled out around the central bed, drawing all eyes into the ironically hellish scene unfolding within. Their set design was commendable from start to finish, illuminating rather than overpowering the play’s themes of morality in a world which is far more than overtly black and white.
Despite some confusion and unnecessary alterations of lines, Bodinetz’s production waged war on the stage in a contemporary revival of Othello. Roshueval’s performance as the first female Othello in major British theatre has much to merit it, and other directoral decisions- Othello’s regiment is seen lagging it in Ayia Napa, whilst others take selfies on iPhones- gave an Othello which couldn’t have felt more relevent to its audience.
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