Othello (abridged)

Newtown Community Centre, Wellington

19/09/2010 - 19/09/2010

Production Details

Shakespeare in 50 minutes? “Is’t possible my Lord?” This is exactly what Kore Theatre on Tour specialises in. They have produced and toured nationwide 50 minute distillations of Hamlet (2007), King Lear (2008), Macbeth (2009) and now Othello (2010). 

Wellington performance:
Newtown Community Hall, Sunday 19 September, 7pm
Koha at the door.

Palmerston North performance:
Arts on Wednesday, 22 September, 12:30
in theAuditorium, Old Main Building,
Massey University Turitea Campus. 

Enquiries can be sent to: kore@koretheatre.com  

Kore Theatre 
Presents a choice of 3 plays for its 2010 Shakespeare in Schools programme 

    King Lear 

Touring Nationwide: Term 3:  July–September

Bringing Shakespeare to life | Innovative | Accessible | Educational | Enjoyable

Directed to be engaging for a youth audience, at the same time a serious professional production.

Each performance: 45 mins
Space Required: School Hall
Cost: $5 per student | (min charge $500) 

Kore Theatre has toured nationwide since 2007. 

July 19 –23         Northland 
July 26 –30        Auckland 
Aug 2 – 6            Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, central 
Aug 9 –13            Waikato, King Country, Taranaki, 
Aug16 -20           Wanganui, Rangitikei, Manawatu, Hawkes Bay, Eastland 
Aug 23-27           Wellington, Kapiti and Wairarapa 
Aug 30 –Sept 3  Marlborough, Chch, Canterbury
Sept 6 –10           Dunedin, Otago, Southland
Sept 13- 17          
West Coast, Nelson, Golden Bay, Marlborough 

Comments from last year:

The production is the perfect length and displayed such variety in performance styles it kept everyone thinking, entertained and stimulated. I had the hardened anti-Shakespeare students claiming to have loved the production. Lear & his Daughters was intelligently conceived and executed, performed strongly and with variety and nuance, and used signs and symbols in such a way as to stimulate much debate in classes after. Ralph was an impressive presence as Lear, and Liz’s multi-roling won her kudos across the board, not to mention her physical theatre and musician skills.” Nick Brown, HOD Drama & Theatre Arts, Kerikeri High School. 

The energy and focus of the actors held the girls. One student described it as ‘invigorating’. The girls were particularly taken with the imaginative use of ‘found’ objects to enhance the storytelling.” Josephine Carpenter, Woodford House, Havelock Nth.

“The performance was moving, physical and very fast-paced, taking the audience through a wide range of emotions and brilliantly including humour and pathos.”  Kirsty Hazledine, Cultural Director, Wellington College 

A student comment: "I didn’t want to go because Shakespeare pretty much sux and teachers keep treating it like it is ‘the best’ but I just didn’t get it. After their show I changed my mind.”  Krissy Walton, drama teacher, Thames High School. 

“They were spell bound and so appreciated the acting. This was just a huge treat. Every school should have the Kore Theatre Company perform for them.” Elizabeth Grubb, HOD Drama, Mountainview High School, Timaru 

About Us:

Ralph Johnson has been working as a performer in schools for over 25 years. He toured with Downstage, Terradactyl Tours, Town & Country Players, and Action Roleplay, as well as last 3 years’ Kore Theatre tours. He has also acted in 18 Shakespearean productions and directed two.

Liz Kirkman has recently been focusing on workshop based teaching through Stagestar, NYDS, Capital E’s ONTV studio, Massey University & schools. She loves performing. When in Cymbeline one reviewer stated, ‘the wicked Queen as played by Liz Kirkman could give Lady Macbeth something to shudder about’. We’ll see…

Lilicherie McGregor is an experienced theatre director, who lectured at the University of Otago for 4 years before working as Assistant Director for Eugenio Barba at Odin Teatret in Denmark for 3 years. Lilicherie is the Artistic Director of Kore Theatre Company. 


2 – 3 hour workshop with Ralph Johnson & Liz Kirkman
Please book in conjunction with King Lear performance.

CONTENT: Examples of what we could offer include:
Working in mask | Commedia dell’Arte | Improvisation | Shakespeare’s imagery 
We are open to work with your individual needs as to the content of the workshop.   

This workshop may be useful to cover one of the requirements in the Drama Curriculum syllabus. 

We are flexible and will try to accommodate your needs in relation to times. The workshop could be within school hours, or after school. 

Space required: Hall or large activity room
Cost: $25 per student
Limit: 18 students

    PH. 09 425 6786
    Email: kore@koretheatre.com

To book, e-mail the information below.
We will confirm your booking by email and answer any questions you may have.

Your School:

Contact Person:



Street address: 

Which play/s: 

Preferred date and time: 

Approx. no. of students attending: 

Workshop wanted? Yes/No 
Approx. numbers attending:  

Book by 4th June. Resource materials for preparation and follow-up classes will be sent with booking confirmation. 

Clear purpose in performance brings great value

Review by John Smythe 20th Sep 2010

This year Kore Theatre has added a trimmed-down Othello to its quiver of 50-minute Shakespeare tragedies. On offer to senior high schools in the July-September term has been Othello, King Lear (a.k.a. Lear & his Daughters, launched 2008) and/or Macbeth (2009), plus a 2-3 hour acting workshop aligned to the King Lear option.  

This abridgement of Othello basically extracts the Othello, Desdemona and Iago elements, allowing the other contributors to that storyline to be reported on, implied or, indeed, implicated. Assuming the audience is already informed through studying the play, and/or will be inspired and supported to discover more after the show, this works very well indeed.  

The only time I feel a disconnect is when Othello goes straight from asphyxiating Desdemona into, “Soft you, a word or two before you go,” spoken directly to the audience (which is fine) but without having learned from Emilia that his jealousy is unfounded, which is what leads him to kill himself.  

Ralph Johnson takes the title role while Liz Kirkman doubles as Desdemona and Iago. Their relaxed and affable welcoming of the audience segues into a ritualised daubing of each other’s face; his with black streaks, hers with white blobs. He dons a black beret when in battle mode; she turns Desdemona’s skirt into a bright red cape and tucks her hair under a cap to become Iago.

The states of love, between Desdemona and Othello, and jealousy-fuelled hatred – first Iago’s for Othello then Othello’s for Desdemona – are clearly articulated and physicalised, as are the scenes of Iago’s subtly devious deceptions. On this fast track, the usual slow corrosion of Othello’s faith in Desdemona’s honesty gives way to a ready impulse to distrust, giving him the mien of an abusive husband who would inevitably have found a reason to hit then murder her.

That he does this while wearing a crucifix, and while demanding prayer and devotion of her, adds fuel to the discussion topics the production provokes (Old Testament or warped New Testament values? What other religions, in their fundamentalist forms, allow men to treat wives as chattels and murder them on suspicion of infidelity?). Certainly Othello’s notion of himself as “one who loved not wisely but too well” rings especially hollow here because we have observed his behaviour objectively rather than empathised subjectively with his disintegration.  

Johnson lets the text speak for itself, honouring the emotions of each moment without adding interpretive embellishments. Likewise Kirkman, although she necessarily has to differentiate her characters. Her Desdemona is initially girlish then steadfast in her innocent honesty while the low-toned voice she brings to Iago renders him a poker-faced sociopath.

Director Lilicherie McGregor has worked with her actors to bring a steady rhythm and flow to the performance, utilising a number of interesting devices. For example, a dance that Othello teaches Desdemona first symbolises their love and partnership but later embodies a clear demand for her to ‘dance to his tune’ and obey his rules.

A keffiyeh (Arab scarf, also known as a ghutrah, hattah, mashadah or shemagh) is variously used by Kirkman as part of Desdemona’s costume and, slightly confusingly, as the strawberry-patterned handkerchief Iago misuses to feed “the green-eyed monster” that lurks in Othello’s psyche.  

Two staves are used to denote the military aspect, and in stylised combat as Iago assails Othello with his insidious words. And Iago twirls one in front of himself as his soliloquies propel the ‘engine’ of his dastardly plot toward the inevitable outcome. Four small granite rocks are also used as an abstract motif, as the plot grinds on to turn Othello’s heart to stone. Both devices, apparently, prompt post-performance discussion with the schools audiences.

Of the four Kore Theatre schools productions mounted in the last four years (they began with Hamlet in 2007), this is only the second I’ve seen. The clear purpose that drives their simply-mounted productions confirms my view that their work has great value for NCEA students seeking to comprehend, interpret and intelligently articulate an awareness and understanding of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

As distillations designed to provoke discussions that lead to further enquiry and study, they are highly recommended.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council