Othello (1981): Unfolding Rose, Theatre Space, Covent Garden
PRINCIPAL CAST: Lloyd Anderson (Othello); Michael Bott (Cassio); Richard Earthy (Iago); Anne White (Desdemona).
This production ran from 12 - 17 January 1981.
The advertising leaflet states it the production is "presented by the Unfolding Rose, a company of ten. A simple, uncluttered but compelling production, aims at sweeping the audience along in a continual headlong fall towards Othello's destruction. The text and the hugely organic reality within it seizes the actors and audience alike and needs no special effects to unfold a story which is grippingly identifiable for everyone today as much as it was in Elizabethan times. The company has done much specialized work on the language of the play and the particular conditions it was written and performed in originally; the words were resonated and worked on the mind's eye of the audience. Today, however, modern audiences and venues demand a more intimate communication which they have accounted for in their playing. Similarly it is more fitting that a black actor play Othello, which is the case in this production."
"There is no mistaking the courageous ambition of the Unfolding Rose theatre company in choosing to stage Othello as its first ever production. It is, however, a reckless gamble which spectacularly failed to pay off. The Royal Shakespeare Company has proved just how effective small-scale Shakespeare can be and the cramped conditions of the subterranean Theatre Space, Covent Garden seem ideally suited to Othello, one of the most claustrophobic, compelling and painful of all Shakespeare's plays. But this point-blank style requires most sensitive and flexible verse speaking and lovingly detailed direction if it is to work - sadly it gets neither in David Creedon's depressingly bland production. In the first half many of the cast seem intent on earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records for gabbling out their speeches at breakneck speed with little or no regard for the sense. In the second, the effort has clearly defeated them and far too many lines are muffed. Creedon seems to have nothing fresh to say in his production and the evening is only partially rescued from disaster by Lloyd Anderson's intermittently intelligent performance as a genuinely black Othello and Richard Earthy who hints at Iago's terrible malignity when he manages to prevent his face from locking itself into a ludicrously over-worked grin." ~ Charles Spencer, "A rose that failed to bloom", New Statesman, 13 January 1981
"David Creedon, until recently with the RSC, has been stimulated by that experience to start his own company - The Unfolding Rose...His Othello uses a full text and is a straightforward reading - no quirks of directional fancy to mask the plot. As a result, he receives committed, sincerely felt playing and, for the most part, intelligent speaking of the verse. Setting and lighting are simple, costumes are from the RSC (and so stand up to close scrutiny) and there is much doubling of the smaller parts, which is just as historians tell us it was in Shakespeare's own theatre. To the title role, Lloyd Anderson brings a dark voice and a characterisation of a man already under a curse from some malignant fate." ~ Anne Morley-Priestman, "Theatre Space: Othello", The Stage, 15 January 1981, p. 21