The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Othello is coming live to the Wellesley Cinema on 26th August at 7pm and, in casting a black actor as Iago, Othello’s adversary, it breaks entirely new ground.
Hugh Quarshie, known for his role in BBC’s hospital drama, Holby City, and for starring in major blockbuster Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) returns to the RSC for the first time since 1996. Game of Thrones actor, Lucian Msamati, is the first black actor to play the role of Iago.
Shakespeare’s play presents Othello, a great general, a brave, fearsome soldier and loving husband of his wife, Desdemona. But his prestige and status has attracted enemies. Motivated by prejudice and envy, Othello’s enemies conspire against him to plot his demise but his downfall is ultimately brought about as a result of his own pride and fragile ego.
The production has united critics in applauding the many new aspects of the text that the casting reveals. The Guardian’s Micheal Billington said, “For a start, it reinforces the historic bond between Othello and Iago, and helps to explain the trust the former places in his ensign. By making Othello the commander of a multi-racial unit, the director, Iqbal Khan, also exposes the unresolved tensions in the group: you can see exactly why Iago would detest a Caucasian Cassio who tries to show his kinship with the men by taking part in a rap contest during the Cypriot drinking scene. And one of Khan’s shrewdest touches in this modern-dress production is to dismantle the stereotype of Othello as the “noble Moor” by showing that he sanctions waterboarding by his troops and is prepared to use torture to get Iago to cough up details of Desdemona’s presumed infidelity.”
Hugh Quarshie is described as “an excellent Othello” alongside Lucian Msamati’s “outstanding” Iago with Joanna Vanderham as Desdemona. One critic said, “Ciaran Bagnall’s set and lighting and Akintayo Akinbode’s percussive score add to the impact of a production that makes us see a familiar tragedy from a totally fresh perspective.”
Fans of rock musicals have a treat in store when the timeless classic The Rocky Horror Show is transmitted live to The Wellesley from The Playhouse Theatre, London, on Thursday 17th September at 6.45. Richard O’Brien returns to his own show as the Narrator after an absence of more than 20 years.