Having previously directed Hamlet and Measure for Measure, Geraldine Watson now turns her attention to Shakespeare’s tragic Moor. Tackling Othello is by no means an easy task, such is its reputation, and Rogue’z Theatre’s stab at it is an admirable but lacklustre one.
There’s nothing terrible about the production but neither is there anything unmissable. There is of course merit in the familiarity of Watson’s by-the-numbers approach, but the lack of risks is disengaging. Those she does take, unfortunately, don’t always hit the mark: echoing words, for example, are overused in the first half and absent in the second. Where Watson really shines is in her attention to aesthetics, with set and costume design of the highest quality.
Ultimately though, the play lives and dies by the performances of its two leading men and Andreas Constantinou (as Othello) and Dan Burrows (as Iago) are solid, if unspectacular. Burrows is hamstrung by an interpretation of Iago that never quite feels believable, while Constantinou often veers into melodrama. There are flashes of brilliance from both actors but, like many male members of the cast, the performances need to be reined in.
The women, meanwhile, are superb. Charlotte Rees portrays the conflict of Desdemona’s innocence and allure with perfection, matched in effort by the pathos of Rebecca Price’s Emilia. In her brief turn as Bianca, Sophie Hayden steals the show, though. It’s a tremendous comic performance eliciting genuine laughter, but Hayden plays it with an endearing melancholy.
Performances like this hint at the potential for Othello to be something wonderful but, unfortunately, it isn’t enough. With the crucial aspects of the play underwhelming, much is left to be desired.