Venue information
Union Theatre
Arch 22and 23, Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, London, SE1 0LR
t: 02072619876
About this event
Cost Ticket price: 13th March – 16th March £15, Tickets from 19th March: £22.50, concessions £20, Under 18 £15 and 3 show saver tickets £50.
Tel020 7261 8976
Known play Learn more about this play

The new staging of Shakespeare's OTHELLO is set in 1919, in the Punjab region during the British occupation known as The Raj.

2019 is the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, also known as the Amritsar massacre. One of the most infamous and shameful incidents of Britain’s colonial rule of India, it marked a turning point for many Indians from moderate cooperation with the Raj and its promised reforms, to revolutionary non-cooperation. A year after the dreadful massacre, Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement that would ultimately lead to Indian independence.

This atrocity saw both British & Indian officers fire without warning into a large gathering of unarmed local men, women and children. It is not clear how many of the crowd were defying a very recent ban on public meetings, and how many had come to the city from surrounding regions on pilgrimage to celebrate Vaisakhi, one of the holiest days in the Sikh calendar in one of India’s holiest cities, as they did every year. Trapped within a large open garden with the exits blocked by the British troops, many of the unarmed crowd were either killed or wounded by bullets, trampled in a panicked stampede or jumped to their deaths in a well.

It’s impossible not to wonder how the Indian soldiers had become so compromised or what conflicting emotions they would have experienced when following the British order to attack their fellow countrymen.

The British had recently instigated a disastrous scheme whereby selected Indian soldiers were to be promoted into higher officer ranks in the British Army. These Indian cadets were sent to study in Great Britain at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in anticipation of promotion to King's Commissioned Officers, with full authority over British troops.

However, far from home, these Indian recruits were pitted against young upper-class Englishmen and mercilessly brutalised in conditions alien to their upbringing and experience. Of the first batch of 25 cadets admitted, ten were considered to have failed to meet the requisite standard, two died, two resigned, and one was deprived of his commission.


Our production presumes that English army chaplain, Cassio and the Indian officer recruit, Othello, survived their Sandhurst training together, becoming friends, during which time they first met the wilful and beautiful débutante, Desdemona.

Upon graduation, Othello has been fast-tracked to the rank of General in an Indian outpost, now under the jurisdiction of Desdemona’s father, The Duke. She and Othello secretly marry and he sends for his old friend, Cassio, to be his Lieutenant.

Iago, Othello’s sociopathic English orderly (a lower-class soldier assigned to commissioned officers as a personal servant) is prevented from rising any higher in the army by his background and is deeply resentful of Othello for his favouring of Cassio.

With the reluctant participation of his newly arrived wife, Emilia, Iago plots the destruction of the General, who is already isolated and conflicted by his role collaborating in and enforcing the British occupancy of his native land.

Essential Classics Season Director


OTHELLO Matthew Wade
DESDEMONA Carlotta De Gregori
IAGO Rikki Lawton
CASSIO Jerome Dowling
EMILIA Claire Lloyd
RODERIGO Maximilian Marston
BIANCA Megan Grech
THE DUKE Jeremy Todd
MONTANO Kit Carson


Produced by Sasha Regan for the Union Theatre
Directed by Phil Willmott
First Assistant Director: Holly Hughes
Second Assistant Director: Sam Gaffney
Set Designer: Justin Williams & Jonny Rust
Lighting Designer: Zoe Burnham
Sound Designer: Julian Starr
Costume Designer: Penn O’Gara
Historical and Cultural Adviser: Jag Grewal
Production Photographer: Scott Rylander
Stage Manager: Alice Woods

13th March – 6th April 2019
Previews from 13th March - 16th March

Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Matinées: 24th March, 31st March and 6th April at 2.30pm

Tickets: 13th March – 16th March £15
Tickets from 19th March £22.50, concessions £20, Under 18's £15
Ticket Link:

For all school or group booking rates, please contact the Union Theatre directly on 020 7261 9876 or by e-mail on

The Union Theatre, Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, Southwark SE1 0LR.
Box Office: Telephone: 020 7261 9876
Official Review by Matthew Partridge, read now
Official Review by Aline Waites, read now
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