Othello (2003): Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, Concentric Circles

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PRINCIPAL CAST: Daniel Betts (Cassio); Ricky Fearon (Othello); Mandana Jones (Desdemona); Christopher Middleton (Iago); Tracy Sweetinburgh (Emilia).

This production ran from 7 - 22 February 2003. It was a co-production between the Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke and Concentric Circles. The press release notes "Concentric Circles' mission is to bring the great classics within reach of a contemporary audience or to people who, regardless of age, expect that theatre should reflect their own lives and preoccupations. The production will use Shakespeare's original text and will be set in the confines of an army barracks.

"Peter Hall has often said that our actors need special lessons in the elementary art of speaking clearly when they tackle classic plays....when I visited Basingstoke for Concentric Circles' touring production of Othello, I sat in row G, which surely isn't a dead spot - and again and again words were dropped, hurried over, scrambled and robbed of strong, stinging consonants. Sorry to moan, but it seriously spoiled what was otherwise a decent enough evening. Christopher Fettes has enrolled a splendidly commanding Moor in Ricky Fearon, a wonderfully sly Iago in Christopher Middleton and an enchanting Desdemona in Mandana Jones. But the only one of these who didn't need a few hours with a voice coach was Jones....And I wouldn't want to follow Fearon's Othello into the field, because I might mistake his call of 'charge' for a plea for a sustaining cup of char. Well, let's not berate the supporting players, one or two of whom sometimes mixed English with Esperanto, but applaud Middleton in particular....And Fearon belies his bulky, commanding exterior with moment, if not of intolerable pain, of genuine poignancy. The suits, dresses and (especially) uniforms seem to be contemporary American, which is fine but can't exactly discourage verbal slovenliness. Agnes Treplin's bleak, grey-steel set is adaptable enough to sprout a bar, a basin, and even a urinal for Daniel Bett's Cassio, a nice guy wandered in from South Pacific, to shove Roderigo's head into. The surprises include commedia figures with bird-beaks as Brabantio's heavies and a lady Doge with a weird, stilted voice (think of Eliza Dolittle when she's handling words as if with sugar-tongs) and a cold so bad she keeps dropping used tissues into an aide's briefcase. But those are minor oddities by today's standards, less distracting than the total omission of Act V Scene I. This meant that we didn't see Roderigo try to kill Cassio or Iago murder Roderigo. But then we were told of the incident in the play's final scene. Or I think we were."  ~ Benedict Nightingale, "The Moor's lost sighs lose the plot", The Times, 17 February 2003

Pe People involved in this production