Bard on the Beach
Othello by William Shakespeare

Dates and Venue 28 May - 25 September 2009 at 8pm, Tues - Sun | Vanier Park, Mainstage tent

Reviewer Ed Farolan

It's been quite a while since I've seen a Bard on the Beach show that's been received with such enthusiasm. Despite the three-hour performance, the audience was enthralled by the acting, and at the end, a well-deserved standing ovation, particulary for actors Michael Blake (Othello) and Bob Frazer (Iago).

This is one of Shakespeare's classic tragedies, together with Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and King Lear. Jealousy, prejudice, deceit, and betrayal -- these are just a few of the themes that drive innocent love to tragedy in the Bard's play. Iago, whose appearance reminds me of a neo-Nazi racist, is jealous of a black man who has become his superior. Like any white supremacist, he doesn't think that anything less than white should be up in the echelons of the upper class of society. He is also angry that Othello has passed him over for promotion in favour of Cassio, and therefore, seeks revenge throught deceit and manipulation.

Villainy, manipulation, murder --the mettle of anti-heroes-- is Iago, and Frazer convinced me as he strutted on stage, spitting his asides to a non-sympathetic audience. I noticed the audience's faces and reactions of disgust and aborrence as he played his part. If this play were one of those turn of the century melodramas, where villains were hissed at and heroes were applauded, I'm sure I would have heard a lot of boos and hisses from this opening night audience.

Blake also convinced playing his role as Othello-- the passion he exuded, the sweat in his face, the anguish of jealousy in his gestures -- all this an expression of the role Shakespeare meant for an actor of this calibre.

Naomi Wright as Desdemona, the victim of innocent love, is the target of unfaithfulness with Cassio, driving Othello to rage, madness and murder. She played her role quite exquisitely and I like this interpretation of a not so pretty brunette playing this role rather than the pretty, innocent blonde usually portrayed for this part. Jennifer Lines as Emilia was likewise superb in her portrayal as the deceived wife of Iago.

This production was not stylized at all; it remained faithful to costumes of the Italian Renaissance, which is the way I like it, the way Shakespeare intended it to be. The round thrust stage was innovative, yet reflecting Shakesperean staging.

Kudos to Director Dean Paul Gibson and the cast and production staff for coming up with a such a powerful and commanding show!

© 2009 Ed Farolan