Ngaio Marsh Theatre, Christchurch

25/07/2008 - 02/08/2008

Production Details

In a totalitarian future, a Venetian career soldier, Othello (Robert Enari), has used his considerable talent and charisma to rise above the prejudices ingrained in his rigidly structured society to become a celebrated general. Against the odds, he has not only ascended the ranks of the Venetian military, but also won the hand of Desdemona (Suzanna Remmerswaal), the beautiful and cultured daughter of a bigoted senator.

When Othello’s hate-filled ensign Iago (Andrew Todd) is overlooked for promotion once too often, he hatches an insidious plot with a single purpose: the utter destruction of Othello. On the war-torn island of Cyprus, Iago manipulates and abuses the trust of those around him – turning his wife, his friends, and even Othello himself into the tools he will use to fashion his ultimate revenge.

Director Todd Dixon and a talented, 19-strong cast creates an oppressive, dystopian Venice where emotion, colour, and hierarchy have all become tools of control. The innovative set (designed by Elsie Edgerton-Till) becomes an active part of the story – slowly constricting Othello’s already regimented and claustrophobic world as Iago poisons him against his comrades, his wife and eventually even himself. Set and costume combine to accentuate feelings of oppression and conflict in a production combining the age-old Shakespearean themes of jealousy, prejudice, honour, betrayal, and evil with the style and ideas of classic modern works such as 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and THX-1138.

Dramasoc’s Othello runs from July 25th – August 2nd 7:30pm at the Ngaio Marsh Theatre. Matinee at 1:00pm on Monday July 28th, no show Sunday.

Tickets: $12 Students, $15 Adults; bookings are available from the Court Theatre box office (03 963 0870) or online at www.dramasoc.org.

For more information, please contact president@dramasoc.org   

Othello: Rob Enari

Desdemona: Suzanna Remmerswaal

Iago: Andrew Todd

Emelia: Elisabeth Harris

Cassio: Nic Lye

Bianca: Alice Canton

Roderigo: Ashwath Sundaresan

Duke of Venice: Mike Adams

Brabantia: Erin Harrington

Montano: Damien McGrath

Lodovica: Lucy Mulholland

Chorus: William Petty, Susan Cheyne, Jessica Todd, Erin Upjohn Beatson, Taina Rai

Original Score: Andrew Todd
Assistant Director: David Searle
Producers: Chontelle Tuck, Sian Dunn, Eli Matthewson

Set Design: Elsie Edgerton-Till
Costume Design: Viki Freeth
Sound Design: Hamish Parkinson
Lighting Design: Pete McGuinness

Set Construction: Richard Till, Sofian Irsheid
Marketing: Justin Soong

2 hrs 45 mins, incl. interval

The appeal of a human struggle

Review by Lindsay Clark 26th Jul 2008

Student productions are often long on ideas, short on resources and a grab bag of assorted talent. In essence this production left me feeling respect for the brave spirits involved, but little of the satisfaction that comes from new insights or even old ones well furnished. Promotion material had prepared me for a radical take on background politics – a ‘dystopian Venice’ and the ensuing case study of Iago’s fiendish revenge. I missed the vision of a ‘totalitarian future’ entirely.

Expectations, it must be said, were deflated too, in the face of technical difficulties associated with this performance space – noisy heaters, contrary lighting and a lack of intimacy between the stage and the audience. To some extent this lack is overcome by cleverly shaped and manipulated light coloured voile cloths which allow multiple entrances as well as potentially interesting shadow work.

With almost nothing in the way of dressing, the open space is furnished by the image-rich language of the master’s imagination and the focused intensity of the players – well, some players. Whereas the large cast is clearly on top of the meaning of what they are saying, the emotional and physical implications of the poetry are picked up by few, with unfortunate consequences in group scenes where the ‘just standing around’ look cuts through any dramatic tension we might be feeling. It was difficult to believe in the authority of the uni-garbed soldiers and officials – although this might be where I missed the ‘future’ look.

At the heart of the play however, is the frightening story of love destroyed by implacable, pathological evil and played out with insidious cunning. The Othello/ Iago relationship emerges as a strong presence in the production. As Iago, Andrew Todd ranges from oleaginous charm to vicious bullying. His mocking snigger at the end of the play, with the bodies of his victims in the background, confirms his complete lack of compassion but risks reducing the power of the murders we have just seen to melodrama.

Othello is a towering role, a paradox of noble dignity and jealous passion. Robert Enari, with velvet voice and physical assurance, is a confident and often moving presence. As the commanding general and military man of action, his performance falls short of the superhero mark, but as the play ripens and the net (literally ) closes around him, his vulnerability is poignant.

Whatever conceptual thinking had gone on for this production, its ultimate appeal is in the human struggle played out before us. The rest can be forgiven and forgotten if we believe in those.


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