Othello Review

Keith Kibler

Othello, performed by a great cast of people, was performed in Stratford Canada’s Festival Theater on July 28, 2019. Othello himself is played by Michael Blake who is a seasoned actor with a great lineup of acting throughout. The veteran director, Nigel Shawn Williams, shined in the visceral display that provided more to the expression of the play. The performance was done to a tee engrossing the audience with the ideas present in today’s controversial ideologies. With the great acting, storytelling, and audio cues you can without a doubt grasp the idea of how the characters clearly can be influenced by another individual within the tale. I believe listening and seeing everything in motion clearly helps people see and believe things unfolding between the actors

The directing choices are top-notch. The opening of the play had a unique tone to it that would set it off in the direction it needed to go. It was a very surreal setting in which seeing in the background, Othello and Desdemona getting married. While you get Liago surrounded by a bunch of common soldiers almost praising him in a chant-like state. All soldiers surrounding him are in anguish as Liago performs self-inflicting chokes on his own neck. This scene is by no means present at all or portrayed in the play you may read by Shakespeare. The director took it upon himself to add something more illustrative. More or less they did this to show all three characters, so you could put a face to everyone as they are introduced by word of mouth from the key characters. Also, the fact that you see Liago in his present state of hate and contentment towards his rival, Othello, who has no clue that he dislikes him. With seeing Othello, Desdemona, and Liago in their current states; you get the idea of Liago’s ill conversations are meant to hurt the couple in some ill-fitted way. The normal play setting would be the time frame the play was released. The director took a very modern approach making it easier to relate to. One thing for sure, seeing the main characters in the beginning truly shows that the director is well versed in how people may see or think about the character. With a long plot you would catch on, yet it drives the story development through the audience’s eyes at a faster pace.

Costumes, lighting, scenery, and musical scores add to the psychological effects of putting you into this other reality. Now way back when this play was first introduced. They had swords and full metal armor for soldiers’ clothing in the 1500’s. The clothing used in this play was modern military fatigue current with today’s timeline. This brings the audience closer to our current reality thus having people more invested in what is going on currently. The imaging itself was unique with the tones that elaborated in Liago’s state of being. Another element used was the musical score in the very beginning when introducing Liago. It was a dark upbeat sound that intensified his being. Seeing the screen change behind him during his soliloquy with projected animated pictures. Especially when he speaks, it looks like blood slowly oozing down the walls. The projected images really bring out every situation, even when walls are slowly drawn into the background. This established a new change in a place within an instant, as windows and doorways came into view. Making for a seamless transition from one place to another and allowing the story to unfold faster and concisely. 

The acting is this piece was literally off the chain, really appreciatingly good. Having an amazing artist portray their parts with their hearts and soul, brings the characters out more fleshed and human as they should be. Seeing everyone up on the stage brings a solid practicality, a very concrete realism that televisions can’t produce. Theater plays have you there at that moment in a world with its own ideas, plight, and life. When the actors play their role to a tee, you get their feelings put in front of you. This draws the audience into their world. The screaming, enthusiasm, affection, hate, all the feelings they have projected onto the viewer. The interaction and dynamics between all the characters are very well done. You can see how one character is influencing another with a very realistic approach. 

If the acting was horrible, you would not understand the characters. Nor would you even care about their situations. Maybe not even care about the whole play in general. The same goes for the set or stage. If things are out of place or jumbled up on the stage. People may have their eyes averted to the anomalies, taking away the attention of the audience. If the music and costumes were off-key, like KKK uniforms for all the actors, that would take you out of the element as well. Everything flowed as it should in the play that made me think, admire, and love the reason why we go out and enjoy these things.

Now for the great story that Shakespeare introduced to us. The director took this amazing story and intertwined the many different aspects I mentioned above. Incorporating the amazing actors, the great ideas of how to present the show. The interaction between everyone and everything brings the play into a complete cycle of a true work of art. Allowing me to appreciate theater for what it has to offer.

With all the great acting, storytelling, and audio cues you can without a doubt grasp the idea of how a character can be negatively influenced by another individual within the tale. Without all the influences of the director, actors, and the rest of the crew that brought this all together. You would never come to any of the conclusions portrayed throughout. Listening and seeing everything in motion clearly helps people see and believe things unfolding between the actors. Without everything working in unity, you would never see or understand just how one character is manipulated by another. The art of a story is to get you engrossed involved. To manipulate your thoughts with your own ideas. Sometimes they change your point of view other times they make you ponder and think. Everyone has their ideas and thoughts, but sometimes someone steers you with a book, play, movie, discourse, or even music. The idea remains that you know what the writer of the story wanted you to see, hear, and feel. How the characters have come to be. In the end, if everything is done correctly, you understand and take with you the story of Othello.