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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.

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