Gullivers – Othello

Gullivers in the Northern Quarter is a lovely pub that has just been refurbished.  Downstairs is a comfortable bar and upstairs a performance space seating perhaps eighty or a hundred.  It’s an intimate room, quirky, the sort of place that could become a favourite.  I like fringe theatre; it offers something different.

Othello is the latest from Lass Productions.  Billed as ‘Shakespeare in a football club’, I had hoped for an innovative interpretation of the text.  But this play is a missed opportunity.  There are great scenes within the two hours twenty minutes; setting the Iago/Cassio drinking scene in a club is wonderful; Bianca (Roisin McCusker) is a great wannabe WAG; the murder of Roderigo (Taran Knight) set to modern day police effects brings the crime up to date.  But the play fails to create the world of ‘Venezia FC’ on the stage.  The text had to change so that we would be catapulted into a different world from that Shakespeare had envisaged.  There is no room for ‘battles’ or ‘generals’.  Why not just add a new first scene to set the play in a football club?  How else would you know that Cassio is the club’s new foreign signing?  That Iago has been passed over for the captaincy?  That Desdemona is privately educated?


Gullivers – before the refurbishment

Nevertheless the acting is very good.  Iago (Liam Grunshaw) is a convincing manipulator, perfectly set up for the football scenario.  Othello (George Oluyinka) bursts into life in the second half as his jealousy gets the better of him.  I think with Othello there are always two questions.  Do we hate Iago enough, and do we feel sufficient sympathy for Othello and Desdemona?  In this production the answer is yes to both.  Desdemona (Francene Turner) appears terribly fragile, a beautiful portrayal of an unwitting victim.  It’s a good cast and a well acted play.

I just think that with fringe theatre you have to be different.  You have to challenge what’s been done before.  You have to be prepared to break convention.  It’s a good play but it’s a missed opportunity.


Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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