A few, joyous things – perennial drizzle, crumbly 1950s buildings, being known as ‘the posh Sarah’ – spring to mind about sixth form. My suburban, Adrian Mole-style grandiosity aside, one forever embarrassing memory is of absolutely loving Othello, which I studied for A Level English Lit. Hearing that everyone’s favourite Cyprus-based jealousy fest, directed by Benji Bailey, would be performed from 12th-14th February, I was determined that no other pseudo-intellectual, minor student reviewer would get there first.
Considered one of Shakespeare’s four major tragedies, and with just a few centuries of literary criticism behind it, Othello is not the easiest production ever. Nevertheless, in front of a full audience in Venue 2, opening night commenced with a –multiracial- bang. Pathetic, fumbling Roderigo (Jared Liebmiller) and irate Senator Brabantio (Niall Kennedy) convincingly headed the first act. It was, however, the malicious, often psychopathic, Iago (Tom Vanson) who commanded the stage from the start, engaging the audience with both varied, confident dialogue and intimate soliloquies.
Frankly, though, the play was generally pretty exceptional: from Othello’s (Ebe Bamgbove) moving degradation from self-assured devotion to incoherent rage, to Desdemona (Cate Kelly) as alternatingly childlike and firm. Notoriously tricky, I dreaded a clunky, unbelievable death scene. When it came, Emilia (Emily Hoyle), in particular, executed –oh, such wit- a stunning final performance.
An ambitious, yet minimal, thrust stage layout allowed for consistently good and dynamic use of the available space by all actors, nicely contrasting the set-up usually offered by the Barron. Despite some slightly unnatural bawdiness –golly, weren’t those Elizabethan types cheeky? – and distractingly loud music superimposed upon raaaaather crucial conversations, there was no really weak element. I can truthfully say that this is one of the most professionally produced plays that I have watched at university. Seriously, I wish I could be facetious or apathetic or coolly ambivalent, but I’m just… impressed. Help?