SHOEHORNING two classic Shakespearean plays together into one production and bringing a semblance of understanding to the audience of what was going on was always going to be a difficult task but this play works incredibly well.
It may well be that old Will is turning in his grave at this Jude Christian inspired production currently at Manchester’s Home, supported by the Lyric Hammersmith, but it certainly presents a new way of re-interpreting the presence of women in plays by the Stratford-on-Avon bard.
The first half features an abridged 80 minute version of Othello, which highlights all the things men are famously known for including treachery, ambition and jealousy. What stands between the men are the characters of Desdemona and Emilia, the former who dies at the hands of her husband because he believes she has committed adultery with the innocent Cassio, and the latter because of Iago’s treachery and for her being unable to keep her mouth closed in owning up to Othello.
The shoehorning comes at the end of Othello, when we get a taster, as the women so cruelly struck down by their husbands, play the witches, who foresee less hubble and bubble, but a whole lot of dastardly trouble in the second half.
Jude’s presentation of Macbeth takes apart the accepted notion that witches are the femme fatales and have led astray the poor tragic hero Macbeth, without anyone, until now, daring to look at what was happening to women in Europe at the time Shakespeare was writing the play. It almost went without saying that women who stood up also stood out and were likely to be targeted for daring to challenge the male order.
Jude says: “These plays are badass. They’ve got sword fights, final reckonings and mortals cursing hell and heaven for their tragic fate. And the language is poetry. The characters talk unashamedly and viscerally about love, sex, yearning, triumph and pain, and that’s the kind of theatre that does it for me.”
To my mind, this is a breathtaking exploration, which re-positions the role of men as less important characters to the generally received wisdom and as a result, helps to empower the female roles as more relevant to a modern day revisionist viewpoint.
The cast is Sam Collings(Iago/Macduff), Grace Cookey-Gam(Lodovico/Lennox), Paul Courtenay Hyu(Brabintio/Duncan), Caroline Faber(Lady Macbeth), Kirsten Foster(Desdemona), Sandy Grierson (Cassio/Macbeth), Kezrena James(Bianca), Melissa Johns (Emilia), Ery Nzaramba(Othello/Banquo)
OthelloMacbeth will be staged until Saturday, September 29.
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