Alice Dickerson

Otieno at Southwark Playhouse

The tragedy of today's Zimbabwe proves the perfect setting for this adaptation of one of theatre's most compelling tragedies - Othello.

The Southwark Playhouse lends itself to unsettling, dark productions; the cavernous, exposed nature of the theatre creates an atmosphere in which the audience sits on edge throughout.

This is not the plush experience of the West End – and Otieno proves to be no exception.

Set in modern-day Zimbabwe, the floor is covered in very fine, red dust, barbed wire lines the wall and the stage (often plunged into darkness), is illuminated by a single, ominous light bulb.

Shakespeare's portfolio of work more often than not fits comfortably in a contemporary setting, due to its universal themes of love, war, betrayal, jealousy.

The pairing of Othello and Zimbabwe works all too well. This is a country plagued for far too long by racism and power struggles.

Otieno/Othello, once a proud, strong, honourable man and soldier, loses everything that he holds dear, thanks to both his own faults and the machinations of those that seek to control him – an apt metaphor for the country itself.

The cast is, without exception, excellent. However, as you would expect, it is Otieno (Othello, played by Trevor Michael Georges, who also wrote the script), Ian (lago – Jack Hawkins) and Diana (Desdemona – Sian Goff) who give the stand-out, most brilliant performances.

Highly recommended.

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