Othello, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
January 19 - April 13
£5 – £62
Othello, at The Globe‘s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in an intimate candle lit ambience that befits Shakespeare’s tempestuous play, is directed by Ola Ince and stars Ken Nosu. It runs from 19 January to 13 April.
Othello : The Plot
Othello has risen through the ranks to become a detective chief inspector respected by all. However, constantly combatting racism and beset with jealousy is his future doomed? Shakespeare’s play tackles issues such as institutionalised racism that are as prevalent today as when the Bard was writing 400 years ago.
Ola Ince has brought Shakespeare’s play into the 21st century, turning Othello into a detective chief inspector combatting drug gangs in London’s Docklands.
The play exudes with energy and vitality as Shakespeare meets In the Line of Duty. The action sequences and bawdy drinking scenes enliven elements of the play that overwise can begin to drift, while the plot shift has helped to contemporise a play that has very modern themes. Is there much difference between the racism Othello would have received in Shakespeare’s time to the institutionalised racism in the modern day police force?
Occasionally, the modernisation jars as when police jargon is woven into Shakespearian prose, but as a whole the device is successful. Most importantly, Othello shifts through the gears, from laddish humour to intimate frailty. The key sequences and lines are dealt with respectfully and delivered perfectly by the excellent Ken Nwosu as Othello and Ralph Davis as Iago.
One of the problems with the play is the abrupt shift from lover Othello to jealous Othello. Ince’s rendition of the play involves a Subconscious Othello who visually depicts the inner turmoil going through the hero’s mind. This is a man who has risen through the ranks and has encountered racism throughout his life – even at the beginning of the play his father-in-law accuses him of using witchcraft to trick Desdemona into becoming his lover. Clearly, no respectful woman would fall in love with a ‘Moor’. This makes Othello an easy target for the devilish Iago.
Ince also places a heavy emphasis on the machismo in Othello. Even Desdemona, played by Poppy Gilbert becomes one of the lads, rather than a frail beauty. Again this makes the protagonist’s sudden transformation more believable. Othello places his life in the hands of his fellow soldiers, hence when his trusty sergeant Iago suggests that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him Othello is more inclined to believe him.
Othello is an outstanding success. A wonderful reinvention of the Shakespearean tragedy, Othello examines racism and jealousy with a keen eye. Ken Nwosu is compelling as Othello, demonstrating strength and vulnerability at the same time.
Othello : The Cast
The play is directed by Ola Ince, whose Romeo and Juliet at The Globe received rapturous reviews. Ken Nwosu plays Othello with Ralph Davis as Iago and Poppy Gilbert as Desdemona.
When Is It?
19 January to 13 April, 2024.
How much are the tickets?
£5 (standing) to £62. Tickets are available here.
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
The candlelit theatre provides the ideal setting for one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. “Put out the light and then put out the light”.
Further information can be found here.
Main image: Ken Nwosu as Othello and Ira Mandela Siobhan (c. Johan Persson).