"Refreshingly honest and bold Shakespeare"
by remotegoat reviewer for remotegoat on 26/04/12

In acting there are three simple rules.

1. Turn up on time.
2. Remember your lines.
3. Don't bump into the furniture.

In reviewing there are even less:

1. Watch the production you're reviewing.
2. Don't leave the cast list behind when you leave.

Unfortunately I forgot to follow one of those simple rules last night after watching Shapeshifters production of Othello at the White Bear in Kennington. I left the cast details behind. So, being ever brave I am going to try and mention those I can remember by name and I apologise to those who will only be referred to by their character or position.

I have seen quite a lot of Shakespeare at this loveable, intimate and very quirky venue. Some brilliant, some inexorably terrible and some just managing to scrape an OK in spite of their best efforts to try and be bold. It is without a moments hesitation that I can say that this production of Othello is one of the most enjoyable, and clear, versions of this play that I have ever seen.

It is not perfect nor would I wish to suggest that it was, although the director Robyn Moore has managed to get some truly moving performances from her actors as well as finding both the humour in the script and not being afraid to play up the racism that is frequently downplayed in other productions of Othello.

The cast, pretty uniformly I must say, are solid, and turn in honest, genuine performances that demonstrate real understanding of the words themselves and the thoughts and motivations behind them. There are moments where things don't quite connect though and they stand out because they are so rare.

Will Bryant is a delight with his drunken Cassio hitting the right note of pomposity and joviality. Kevin Goldings Othello is a strong point also. He's visceral, proud, tormented and broken at times and never anything but honest.

A special mention must go to Anita Gollschewsky who I have seen act in a number of fringe productions over the last year. This recent graduate from City Lit is showing increasing confidence and ability on stage and now I look forward to seeing what she does on stage. I hope that it isn't too long before she's cast as a major character rather than as yet another quirky sidekick.

I should also mention the audience member sitting near me who exclaimed "Oh shit!" when Cassio produced "that" handkerchief to give to Bianca. In a nutshell that exclamation showed that the audience included people who were not familiar with the story and were utterly gripped by it.

That's what Shakespeare, and theatre in general, at this level should be able to do. To tell a familiar story in a way that holds audiences who may, or may not, know the plot is a fantastic achievement.

You may wonder after all this gushing praise why I am not giving this 5* - the answer is because it isn't perfect. There are moments, albeit fleeting, where the actors lose that elusive Truth in what they are saying. But it's still one of the most dynamic and refreshingly visceral productions of Othello I've seen in years.

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