Tag Archives: Orlando James

“Othello” at the Riverside Studios

It’s easy to read Shakespeare’s tragedy as a play about its villain, Iago, as much as the title character. But this new version from director Sinéad Rushe has three performers against one! Michael C. Fox, Orlando James and Jeremy Neumark Jones all play Iago and embrace the project as a team. The idea is interesting and the result exciting. 

The trio aren’t taking turns as Iago, they appear on stage, mostly, at the same time. They alternate the lines, or speak in unison. The results fascinate. It’s especially effective for soliloquies, suggesting an internal dialogue. And it aids Iago’s often feeble arguments as the three gang up on victims. The idea also works well for crowded fight scenes or when Cassio is drunk. Iago, the “demi-devil”, becomes supernatural as he can be in so many places at the same time. 

“Dull not device by coldness and delay”

The production even takes advice from Iago! The abridgement prevents distraction from the concept. And a good deal of passionate torment is clear from all characters. Rushe has a firm hand and bold approach that makes action clear and focused. There is an imbalance – how could there not be – and, of course, it helps to know the play well. But the focus is intentional, the idea proves fruitful and the execution is strong.

Martins Imhangbe and Rose Riley

It should be stressed, the production has an excellent Othello: Martins Imhangbe is dignified and moving. Imhangbe brings admirable restraint to the role and is a powerful stage presence. His Desdemona – Rose Riley – is great too, passionate and making every line fresh. Fine performances from Rachel-Leah Hosker and Ryan O’Doherty, taking four roles between them with apparent ease, also deserve mention. 

Surprisingly, the eye-catching triple casting of Iago isn’t the only highlight of the show. Just as impressive is how this Othello sounds. Not only is the delivery of the lines accomplished, the sound design from Ali Taie is super. A variety of effects startle, intrigue, and aid the audience. We even get to see how some are achieved: there’s a great sea crossing scene and each Iago makes a show of using their microphones. To top it all, original music from Fox, including a gorgeous Willow Song beautifully sung by Riley, is excellent, once again providing pace and emotion. There isn’t a dull moment with the device in this production.

Until 29 October 2023


Photos by Mark Douet

“‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” at the Barbican

The Cheek By Jowl theatre company can’t come to London often enough for my liking – its visits are anticipated events. Touring to the Barbican for the last few years, this month it stages Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi and revives its 2011 production of John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore. The latter is a vivid adaptation of the bloody incest tragedy, filled with modern choreography and startling music. And it revels in the horror and gore.

Ford doesn’t hold back. Nor does director Declan Donnellan, who towers over the show, or designer Nick Ormerod, who has created eye-popping imagery. Set in the teenage Annabella’s bedroom, with its vampire posters and red décor (she even drinks cranberry juice), this is the scene of her coupling with her brother Giovanni, a nuptial night from hell with her husband Soranzo and the many schemes that fill the play. The bed is always centre-stage: cavorted on, plotted on, the locale for sex and violence. With red sheets, of course.

Donnellan’s committed cast gives exhaustive performances. Orlando James and Eve Ponsonby are the siblings and their delivery of the text, combined with their physicality, is impressive. Ponsonby does particularly well when it comes to her character’s eventual remorse and fear, while James excels as Giovanni moves from “unsteady youth” to avenging madman. Maximelien Seweryn’s Soranzo and his servant, Will Alexander’s Vasques, make a virile team. Smaller female roles, increased in importance, make the big difference in this particular production. Annabella’s servant, played by Nicola Sanderson, becomes a key role as a foil to the tragedy. Ruth Everett is superb as Soranzo’s spurned lover, an appropriately overblown performance that includes a masterclass in moans.

With Cheek By Jowl on board, the play becomes strangely sexy. Tableaux that summarise Ford’s world view, and make a virtue of unsubtlety, make for startling theatre. The production is frank and brutal. It creates a real sense of the danger surrounding lust. There are moments of excess (I am not sure a stripper was called for) but this is another fine production from master theatremakers. With a clear, boldly abbreviated text, it’s precisely directed and full of memorable imagery.

Until 26 April 2014


Written 13 April 2014 for The London Magazine