This was my first visit to the Unicorn Theatre, and I couldn’t have been more impressed with their calibre of theatre for young people. Othello is told in a way that I doubt you would have seen before, heavily abridged, modernised and hilariously entertaining, everyone, regardless of age, should attend this production.
One of the ways in which this production differs to the original story of Othello is that all of the characters are played by BAME actors, which culminates in a deeper exploration of the wider themes of Shakespeare’s tale, rather than focusing on the theme that the protagonist is discriminated against because of his skin colour. Okorie Chukwu plays the titular role, an endearing and humorous character at the beginning, drawing the entire audience in, which is what causes his actions later on to be that more shocking. His being consumed by jealousy and insecurity turns him into an intimidating behemoth, a far cry from who we meet at the start. Iago and Cassio, played by Lawrence Walker and Ronald Nsubuga respectively, have a charming relationship with Othello (when out of ranks), as they laugh and joke along with the audience, again causing Iago’s actions to be so conniving.
With only five actors, directed by Ian Nicholson, the curved space of the Weston Theatre is cleverly used to create an array of locations including a club, a military base and a ship, all with simple oblong blocks and benches (designed by James Button). This set up encourages fast paced and interesting scene transitions, with countless surprises along the way, showing just how versatile this deceptively basic design can be. Button’s costume design is a mix of cultures, time periods and styles, with Desdemona’s (Ayoola Smart) costume standing out as being an elegant, eclectic mix of all three. Owen Crouch’s sound design drives the stakes ever higher, perfectly integrating with the action. This space is considered from all angles, with the lighting itself (designed by David W Kidd) being used as set, thanks to its ability to be flown in, out, and at different tangents.
Something that will stay with me is just how engaged the entire audience was throughout this piece. With current references, and acknowledging the audience’s presence on many occasions, the atmosphere is vibrant and a joy to be a part of. Unicorn Theatre are not afraid to ask some of the biggest questions to a younger audience, and this shows an utmost respect to them which I greatly admire. This is a wonderfully refreshing interpretation of Othello, and seating is unreserved, so I urge you to try and sit at the front!
Othello is playing Unicorn Theatre until the 3rd March 2018. For more information and tickets, see www.unicorntheatre.com/Othello.