This is an intriguing production in many ways. Heavily cut down and reconceptualised, Corpus Christi Owlet’s production of Othello sidesteps the question of race and instead concentrates on ‘the enemy within’; hence why it has been translated to a Cold War (German?) state and takes the appearance of a murder inquiry into the death of Desdemona. It’s a nice idea, although without the set it’s hard to get a feel of the aesthetic that I hope such an interpretation will conjure up. Particularly notable however is that Iago dictatates his speeches to a female typewriter sitting at a desk on the side of the stage whom he often interacts with. I am not sure whether it quite works or not, I didn’t get to see enough of the play to find out how it all ties together, and whether it is just a one trick pony used in the scene I saw, and then forgotten about for the rest of the play. It’s either genius or completely unnecessary. Time will tell.
Nevertheless, the cast is good, especially Sophie Ablett who plays Desdemona and Amelia Sparling as Emilia, who demonstrate a strong command of the script and of on stage chemistry, giving thoroughly enjoyable, moving and charming performances. Alexander Stutt as Iago also gives a menacingly wily twist to the famous role, which successfully becomes increasingly aggressive and haunting as the play reaches its climax. The same however can not be said for Othello himself, played by Moritz Borrmann. He can at times be electrifying, especially in scenes with Desdemona. In others, particularly those moments where he descends into madness, his characterisation becomes all too shouty, giving his audience little more than a shallow and unimaginative performance. The direction probably doesn’t help; there is a lot of walking around in circles, people squeezing past each other and crowds standing in lines. Borrman however, needs to show more purpose on stage and make us believe that Othello really is a commanding military figure. To really succeed he needs to entice his audience through a more carefully nuanced portrayal. Hopefully this will come with an extra weeks practice.