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St Gabriel’s

St Gabriel’s

Sixth Form English Trip to Othello at the Watermill

A beguiling “Othello” but not one to die for!

The Watermill’s successful adaptation of Othello, paints the art of tragedy in a both momentarily comedic and heavyhearted way, to show that the modern world is so degraded that something as noble as tragedy is no longer possible to experience in a cathartic way. This means the audience can no longer purge their emotions in a natural manner whilst watching a tragic play. However, this was not a universally held view as an audience member challenged this, by saying that “there were moments of tragedy which were not undercut by the modernisation of this production, such as Othello’s anguished cry of ‘put out the light, put out the light’”. 

Whilst we were impressed by the passionate attempt at portraying sadness, as young adults we did not feel the pathos or pity for the characters, to the extent that the older generation might have. However, the rising action of the tragedy was engaging, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats, literally, as Iago delivered her manipulative soliloquies. Iago’s role being played by a woman pushed the play out of the stereotypical Shakespearean bubble, securing it a place amongst innovative Shakespearean productions and giving it a more unique spin of the traditions of the Elizabethan time.  

We thoroughly enjoyed how the actors took advantage of the compact stage, by placing a cubic structure in the centre, which was spun around, jumped on, hung from, and, at moments, concealed from the audience with the use of curtains. However, one of the drapes seemed to be broken, which was a slight distraction from the action of the play as the disturbance seemed to stupefy some actors, but in hindsight, we do believe the situation was handled very professionally, and did not take away from the pleasure and enjoyment of the play.   

Furthermore, the modernisation of the play through the use of music, clothing, setting and props was particularly engaging, especially to the younger audience as it kept us wondering which recent trend would surprise us next. However, in more relation to the portrayal of the play itself, the use of these modern takes, such as Roderigo’s Adidas velour tracksuit, demonstrated the contrast in terms of class and social status between Roderigo and the other cast members, such as Iago. Moreover, the director’s contemporary use of Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’, emphasised the destruction caused by the deceitful Iago and how deep his malicious intent ran. 

The ending of the Watermill production was a jarring diversion from the original ending of Shakespeare’s play, as one of the most significant characters, Emilia, survived Iago’s wrath and went on to deliver a moving performance. We believed that this slightly diminished Iago’s wickedness and menace, as in the original play, Iago’s willingness to slay his wife was a reflection of his unsalvageable character and desire for complete dominion. This, mixed with Iago’s feminisation, stereotypically painted the character as more humane and redeemable in this adaptation of Othello, eliciting feelings of sympathy and impress from some audience members.    

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the Watermill’s adaptation of Othello with its unpredictable twists and beautiful acting, and would definitely recommend it to any Shakespeare fanatic, who is searching for a unique and delectable experience.  

- Zosia, Megan & Moggy, Year 12