Student Review – Othello

Othello by William Shakespeare, English Touring Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory, The New Wolsey Theatre 30th October – 3rd November

‘Some interesting choices’

Othello, a play originally by William Shakespeare, tells the story of the General of the Venetian Army, Othello, and his wife, Desdemona. The play takes us on the journey of how Iago, one of the play’s main protagonist and Othello’s inferior, plays mind games with Othello and eventually convinces him that his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair with Othello’s right-hand man and Lieutenant, Cassio.

The actress playing Desdemona, Kitty Archer, delivered her lines clearly but her characterisation of Desdemona did not come across in a compelling manor. When reading Shakespeare’s original characterisation, Desdemona is portrayed as a strong, grounded, beautiful woman. However Ms. Archer’s play on the character came across as cute, yet needy and annoying. In my opinion I believe she was miscast and should have swapped roles with Bianca, played by Hayat Kamille.

Emilia, played by Kelly Price, did not have as sour relationship with her husband as originally written, in spite of that fact she played the character of Emilia very well. She read her lines clearly and loudly and when it was her chance, she commanded the stage. Her devotion to her Mistress, Desdemona, was very certain and the part was well played.

Victor Ohsin, the actor playing Othello, left me unsatisfied. Although he played Othello’s original laid back, blissful manor perfectly, I took issue with his later more psychotic characterisation. The journey from ‘chilled’ to ‘disturbed’ wasn’t as clear as it should’ve been, I thought he was also too easily convinced against Desdemona. In short, his psychosis remained unconvincing but his laid-back persona worked very well.

The staging in this play did not hold any specific context, and was a little disappointing. It was severely minimalistic, being only a wooden box covered with a canvas. The original play was set in Venice and Cyprus, unfortunately this was not communicated through the set. I would have liked it if there was more detail or perhaps a few more props. As for the microphone hanging from centre stage, that, I believe, didn’t come across as well as they may have wanted. I think what didn’t make sense about it was that it wasn’t used consistently or even for a specific thing.

When it came to lighting, I didn’t notice anything particularly bad or good, except for the fact that while some characters were well lit others weren’t, such as Othello himself. The sound effects were well planned especially while they were portrayed to be sailing. I think most of the characters were well spoken but i did have some trouble understanding a few lines from certain characters.

In my opinion, for a tragedy it just wasn’t that tragic. This is a shame because it truly is a devastating story, but I don’t think that it was given enough emotion for the play to reach its original grievous heights. However although there were some questionable choices made, they still managed to transport me to the magical fairy tale world of theatre.

Age recommendations: 14+

By Lucia Fortunato – East Bergholt High School Student

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