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REVIEW: ETG’s Othello

‘Flipping brilliant’ is the note I gave myself to describe the opening moments of CUETG’s ADC home run of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, and by God did they keep it up

Returning from a packed few weeks touring Europe, the cast and crew pulled together a stellar show, ranging from the dark and confused to the jovial and vibrant, all under the roof of a 1960s jazz bar.

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Credit: ETG

Joy Gingell’s (Director) concept is exceptional, with a live jazz band incorporated into the set to frame the musical elements of the production. The band are accomplished, complimenting Ella Blackburn's (Desdemona) emotive opening number. Special mention should be afforded to both Blackburn and her castmate Sara Hazemi (Bianca), who sang beautifully. Alongside the band was a large, white curtain, which became translucent under the stage lights. This was further genius on the part of Gingell and Production Designer Zak Karimjee, as it presented a clear conceit of Desdemona’s handkerchief, while allowing for some stunning moments as Jordan Julien (Othello) hid from his officers, his silhouette just visible to the audience.

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Credit: ETG

The thick air of suspense hanging in the auditorium did not falter here, oh no. Storming into the first scene, Bilal Hasna (Iago) and Alex Franklin (Roderigo) inhabited the stage with an electric energy. Their relationship is a highlight of the show, as Franklin’s naïve humour contrasts Hasna’s dark, scheming persona perfectly. It would be difficult to deny Hasna’s performance stands out against anything I’ve seen in Cambridge theatre. His impeccable delivery of soliloquies one, two and three, together with his rhythmic movement across the stage created no doubt – this was a true craftsman at work. A moment with Becky Shepherdson (Emilia) towards the end of the first half sealed the deal, wrenching the audience into the mind of a man motivated by revenge, playful in his deceit.

Shepherdson also shone, particularly in the second half of the play as Emilia’s character was further explored. Her comic persona when speaking to Desdemona in the bed chamber lulled the audience into a false sense of security, shattered by her outburst in the final scene of the play. For a production that revolves entirely around relationships, lovers and friends, herself and Blackburn were both believable and powerful, with each interaction eagerly anticipated.

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Credit: ETG

The standard of the entire cast was incredibly high, with some slightly weaker performances by comparison, forgivable given the nature of the touring show and an opening night after a long weekend of preparations at the ADC.

Touring shows can’t always be easy, but the love and trust shared over two weeks on a bus together are clearly evident, making Gingell’s Cast, along with the band and technical aspects of the show, one not to miss.

Overall, 4.5 stars.