Y12 English Literature Trip to see Shakespeare's Othello
Last Wednesday, 2nd November, 21 students travelled into central London, accompanied by Ms Rudd and Mr Davoll to see Othello performed live by the National Youth Theatre in collaboration with Frantic Assembly.
The play tells the tragic story of Othello, a black general to the Venetian army who, having married a white Venetian woman, is insulted by her father, and tricked by one of his oldest friends, Iago, whose lies drive poor Othello mad with a jealousy so strong that he kills his new wife, believing she has been unfaithful.
Although all of the students were really positive about the performance – one student, Shanzeh Haroon, from 12 Atwood, was particularly keen to reflect on what she’d seen.
Review by Shanzeh Haroon
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the National Youth Theatre’s take on Shakespeare’s Othello: it was a much more contemporary and modernised version than we’d seen before which, in some aspects, exceeded my expectations, particularly the sense that the stage resembled Othello and Desdemona’s relationship when Othello was strangling his wife and the stage’s ceiling and pillars were slowly collapsing.
But although the stagecraft blew my mind, I personally felt that Rebecca Smith hadn’t done full justice to the "virtuous" and "pure" character that I would argue Shakespeare intended Desdemona to be. Instead, they portrayed her as a more assertive and defensive female than we would find in the Renaissance Period, making it harder to feel sympathy for her at the end. It’s true that this is an impression that a modern audience can connect with more, and that it’s a refreshing change from the way she’s typically portrayed but, given the chance to change that, I would choose to make Smith’s character slightly more reserved so as to arouse a greater sense of pity from the audience when she dies, making it a bigger tragedy.
Compared to Desdemona, Othello seemed quite sedate for much of the play although he did, when necessary, manage – just about – to seem infuriated by what he believes to be Desdemona’s ‘infidelity’. Nevertheless, the couple perfectly conveyed their romantic relationship towards the start of the play (as Shakespeare undoubtedly intended) through the use of abstract symbolism as their bodies intertwined with one another in a beautifully-choreographed scene that was one of my favourites, not least because it was echoed tragically later on when the movements were repeated in reverse during Desdemona’s death scene.
Elsewhere, the use of lighting, specifically when Iago entered the last few scenes, truly added to his immoral persona; presenting him as one who thrives in darkness, despite the fact that others refer to him as ‘honest’ throughout the entire play.
And so, overall, the performance gave me a better insight as to how Shakespeare’s play can be interpreted in different ways according to the different generations it passes through. Definitely a recommendation; the National Youth Theatre’s performance of Othello is not to be missed.