Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

OTHELLO

Fluellen Theatre , Arts Wing, Grand Theatre, Swansea. , November 13, 2012
OTHELLO by Fluellen Theatre Othello is one of my favourite plays. Iíve seen more productions of this great tragedy than just about any other play. Iíve seen great ones (Greg Doran`s RSC production of 2004) and bad ones (nameless). Fluellen`s latest production at the Grand Theatre Arts Wing must rank among the very best.

Claustrophobically set in the round, the production drew you in the moment you entered the auditorium. In the centre of the stage was a large white sheet under which were the discernible shapes of two bodies side-by-side. When the play started, with effectively moving music, the two bodies arose and, wrapped by that white sheet, entwined themselves in a passionate embrace. This was Othello and Desdemona being introduced to us in a truly absorbing way. But there, in the shadows, was a third figure unseen by the two lovers. Looking expressionlessly on was Iago. A great opening sequence that promised much for the production.

And that promise was more than fulfilled in a gripping, exciting and, ultimately, overwhelming production.

Any production of Othello is only as good as its leading trio of actors, and here it was very well served indeed by Sule Rimi as Othello, Nick Richards as Iago and Jessica Sandry as Desdemona.

With his great stage presence and commanding voice Sule Rimi was every inch the Noble Moor. Dignified at court, quick to anger at the drunken Cyprus brawl, and palpably in love with the beautiful Desdemona, this was a superb performance indeed and one that was matched in every way by the terrific Iago of Nick Richards.

This was a perceptive reading of the role in which you could clearly see why everyone liked and trusted this honest, honest ancient. His personable manner clearly charmed everyone else on stage, which made his insidious evil all the more shocking and dangerous as the production wore on. The Othello/Iago scenes were unbelievably gripping and, because in this production Othello was slower to take the bait than I have ever seen before, incredibly tense.

Jessica Sandry`s heart-breaking Desdemona was all the more poignant for the steel she displayed in the early scenes.

Great credit, also, to Tom Middler for a superb Cassio (his drunk scene was as good as I have ever witnessed) and to Jayne Stillman for a beautifully underplayed Emilia who trusted her husband, Iago, as much as any other character. Her visible shock on discovering his true character at the end of the play was superbly realised.

Peter Richards deserves great credit for his pitch-perfect direction of a production that never flagged and reached a perfect completion when, at the end of the play, the white bed sheet is placed over the adjacent dead bodies of Othello and Desdemona whilst Iago looks unblinkingly on.

A memorable night at the theatre.

Reviewed by: John May

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