The hipster hub of The Pack and Carriage plays host to an entertaining and impassioned production of Shakespeare’s Othello, directed by Vince A. Gill and Sasha Stamp, collectively VG Productions. A troupe of strong performances makes for a fine evening of fringe theatre, the cast successfully conveying the acidity of a play of toxic masculinity, passivity and sneaking marital suspicions.
Othello is the story of the eponymous general who heads a party of soldiers stationed in Cyprus. Amongst its members is a young lieutenant Cassio who Othello has promoted to higher ranking, causing Othello’s other captain Iago to feel unjustly neglected and suitably enraged. Compounded by suspicions that Othello has slept with his wife Emilia, Iago sets about dismantling Othello’s relationships with his young wife Desdemona and with Cassio by planting suspicions of infidelity between Casio and Desdemona. Manipulating all those around him, Iago is a typically shrewd Shakespearean villain, the play channelling its dramatic irony so as to vilify his horrible disposition. Scandalous and with high levels of tension, the play turns a quaint and homely pub into a battleground of wits.
Indeed, the modest pub setting is made electric with a handful of heartily good performances. Yinka Awoni’s burly physique and his authoritative swagger are highly effective as Othello. Particularly strong is his early monologue listing his troubled childhood, an emotionally glowing yet capably restrained presentation. Awoni is committed to his character’s testosterone-filled front, becoming so enraptured in his extreme emotions that he took to disrobing, making yours truly his personal coat rack for his tie and waistcoat when sat at the bar. Jayson Sparks is brilliant as a chillingly charming and unhinged Iago; his impressive command of the Shakespearean tongue makes his character all the more loathsome and mesmeric. He does on occasion seem to garble his words in an effort to get them out as fast as possible, though this is a very minor and infrequent detraction from an otherwise stellar performance.
Roisé Anne as Desdemona bears all the necessary cherubim qualities of her character, making the play’s denouement only too tragic – a great performance. Jack Redfern as Cassio shows flashes of brilliance, with particular mention going to his more comedic moments of inebriation in the plays former half. He does, however, occasionally come across as a little stiff, his delivery lacking a certain fluidity, although it would be churlish to describe it as anything other than a solid performance overall.
This is an informal and unassuming production of a Shakespearean great, which manages to retain and convey all of its tensions and tragedy. It loses none of its edge and has the irrevocably attractive feature of allowing its audience to continue to buy drinks during the performance. I see little to criticise.
Othello played at The Pack and Carriage from 12-13 April.