Unusually, for a Fringe production, Othello? has an interval. Surprisingly, given the first half, the second half was worth watching.
It may well be that the waiting time between scenes was overly long due to this being the first performance of the run, something easily amended given the minimal set: a couple of airbeds doing good duty, along with a miniature chair and a suitcase. One can but hope that the same great pauses before Othello speaks are likewise unintended and capable of being changed. The first half also saw an Iago on speed which, combined with a high sing-song manner of speech, rendered much of the language unintelligible and created a fair bit of irritation.
The second half, however, saw Othello commit to his passion and Iago start speaking to others rather than at them and in a voice recognisable as human, even believable. There was actually a truly funny scene involving Desdemona – played throughout with a strong comedic talent that allowed some flashes of real emotion – along with Iago and Emilia. The latter was well-performed throughout and the actress is to be congratulated on handling Shakespeare’s language and emotion as well as this production’s comedy with wit and truth, particularly in her final scene. Also worthy of mention is Roderigo, who went to town with this comic character while mostly avoiding over-playing. Others offered caricatures that sometimes amused and sometimes fell flat (including literally).
Shakespeare’s Othello tells the tale of a noble Moor driven to distraction and murder through a jealousy engineered by his ‘ancient’ (ensign) Iago. As with other Shakespeare tragedies, there are elements of comedy within the original play – here Deus Ex Machina Productions chooses to add somewhat high school tomfoolery to proceedings, with a strange mixture of Elizabethan or ‘fool’-type costumes alongside modern wear and with bizarre interjections and commedia sketches that wind up very hit-and-miss.
Energy and entertainment are to be found in this questionable Othello?, with the ladies in truth giving the finer performances. There are some laugh-out-loud moments as well as cringe-worthy ones and in the end the tale is told almost faithfully, if with diversions not always diverting and a certain school prank feel.
By Danielle Farrow
8 – 13 August, 16:30 (19:00) @ Gryphon Venues at the Point Hotel