Othello review at Tobacco Factory, Bristol – ‘thrilling and dynamic’

Norah Lopez Holden and Abraham Popoola in Othello at Tobacco Factory, Bristol
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Two bold concepts inhabit this thrilling modern-dress version of Othello. Young actors virtually straight out of RADA – Abraham Popoola and Norah Lopez Holden – take two of the three leading roles, and the title character is portrayed as a Muslim, not the slave converted to Christianity found in the text.

The combination delivers an impressive start to a new touring venture between Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and English Touring Theatre, before the company switch from a spring to an autumn season in Bristol in 2018.

ETT also provides the director in Richard Twyman, only the third guest to take on this role in SATTF`s 18 exhilarating years. He has already worked with Popoola at the Royal Court, and together they paint a compelling portrait of a noble man descending into jealous savagery.

The change in religious identity is evidenced right at the start, with Othello and Desdemona joined in a Muslim marriage ceremony. But it is Popoola`s fresh-faced manner that is so devastating, as Othello`s lack of knowledge about the opposite sex becomes the catalyst for tragedy, made all the more pitiful by Norah Lopez Holden`s child-like exuberance, and then bewilderment, as Desdemona.

Mark Lockyer`s grey-haired Iago, by contrast, is anything but youthful or innocent. His rapid-fire dripping of poison into Othello`s ear resonates with today`s fake news syndrome.

All this is wrapped up in SATTF`s familiar uncluttered approach, ensuring the audience is immediately onside with the relevance of the need to rise above fear of foreigners.

Articulate, dynamic and thrilling modern dress production of Shakespeare's cruellest play