Tag Archives: Akintayo Akinbode

Othello, where everyday horror prevails

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, 4 June – 27 August, 2015, live in cinemas on 26/08/2015

Othello, as per dug out information remembered from school days would look like this: Sneaky Iago drives an easily led black general, Othello, into raging jealousy ending in the murder of his angelic and innocent wife Desdemona. “The green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Cleverly described, but probably a little racist in the choice of participants.

Othello production images_ 2015_Photo by Keith Pattison _c_ RSC_Othello.2493In this version directed by Iqbal Khan, the picture is significantly more complex. Iago (Lucian Msamati) is by no means fairer skinned than Othello, and already in the first scene, in a gondola together with Roderigo (James Corrigan), the racist reference to Othello as “thick lips” vexes him personally. His main incitement, however, is the blow to his pride caused by Cassio’s promotion in which he was passed over.
Whilst Desdemona’s father (Brian Protheroe) is protesting to the Duke (Nadia Albina) against the kidnapping of his daughter (Joanna Vanderham), Othello is entrusted with the task of rescuing the state.
Hugh Quarshie, appearing here as an authority figure as well as a sensual and attractive specimen of eye candy in the prime of his life, leaves no doubt as to what attracted Desdemona to him. According to Shakespeare’s words, it was pity, hmmm.

After a successful battle, the victory celebrations take place in Cyprus. Joanna Vanderham’s Desdemona, with her dance, does not fail to impress Cassio (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd), the cause of Iago’s wounded pride. Here already, Othello gives us a clue that jealousy is not entirely beyond him.
The atmosphere reaches its climax when, after a folksong from Zimbabwe – sung by Iago-Lucian Msamati, Cassio and Montano (David Ajoa) engage in a rap battle.

Controlled by Iago, the situation becomes messy and turns into a fight. Suddenly, all the lightness is lost.Othello production images_ 2015_Photo by Keith Pattison _c_ RSC_Othello.3234
The next scene painfully reminds the audience of the fact that the world of the military is not throughout unblemished and heroic: From the “almost venial” fight through to the torture of a prisoner, a backdrop of the ever-present open or subliminal violence is drawn.
From now on, Iago is working relentlessly on the kindling of Othello’s jealousy. When Iago’s wife Emilia (Ayesha Dharker) delivers the requested handkerchief that Desdemona dropped, the fuse is set alight.Othello production images_ 2015_Photo by Keith Pattison _c_ RSC_Othello.2866
The web of deceit, wounded honour and self-righteous violence becomes a death-trap for Desdemona, and not just her.

Electrifying, funny, tragic and absolutely convincing, Lucian Msamati dominates the stage as Iago.
Hugh Quarshie’s representation of Othello in his transformation from being amiable, charming and a little boyish to becoming an obsessed “honour” killer is an achievement of nail-biting authenticity.
Joanna Vanderham dances and sparkles her enchanting Desdemona until she becomes anxious and quiet.
Ayesha Dharker fills the part of Emilia with heart and wit, and in her big scene towards the end, she sets off a firework display of emotions.
A massive kudos to the fantastic music under the direction of Akintayo Akinbode.

Photos by Keith Pattison © RSC

Nadia Albina – Duke of Venice
David Ajao – Montano
Scarlett Brookes – Bianca
James Corrigan – Roderigo
Ayesha Dharker – Emilia
Eva Feiler – Citizen of Venice
Owen Findlay – Gentleman of Cyprus
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd – Cassio
Guy Hughes – Soldier
Rina Mahoney – Citizen of Venice
Lucian Msamati – Iago
Ken Nwosu – Gentleman of Cyprus
Brian Protheroe – Brabantio
Hugh Quarshie – Othello
Jay Saighal – Gentleman of Cyprus
Tim Samuels – Lodovico
Joanna Vanderham – Desdemona

Director – Iqbal Khan
Set Designer – Ciaran Bagnall
Costume designer – Fotini Dimou
Lighting – Ciaran Bagnall
Music – Akintayo Akinbode
Sound – Andrew Franks
Movement – Diane Alison-Mitchell
Fight Director – Kev McCurdy

Antony & Cleopatra – Indulgence is enemy to career

An RSC cooperation with The Public Theatre, New York, and Gable Theatre, Miami
Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon – directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra), Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Chivas Michael (Mardian/Soothsayer/Eros), Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras)

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra), Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Chivas Michael (Mardian/Soothsayer/Eros), Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras)

Mark Antony, the commander in chief who forgets his martial agenda over the sweet erotic springes of the tawny-skinned Queen Cleopatra, and in the process loses his part of the empire, his career and his life – this historical topic sounds like a reversal of the legends in which people succumb to the realm of fairies; here it is harsh reality prevailing.
Octavius, later to become God Emperor Augustus (btw, the month of August obtained its name just because of it being the month of the conquest of Egypt), then a not very promising 20-year-old heir to Julius Cesar, proves to be a statesman after all and wins the day and the Empire.

Tarell Alvin McCraney edited Shakespeare’s play about the fall of the Egyptian Empire and relocated it to a colonial, Caribbean setting, with the Romans taking the part of Napoleonic occupying forces on the island of Saint Domingue, today’s Haiti.
Cleopatra, played in an intoxicatingly sensual and impulsive manner by Joaquina Kalukango, is caught in a mutual spell with Jonathan Cake as Mark Antony, utterly convincing, quite dishy, and the archetype of a warrior/business man going astray. “She makes hungry where most she satisfies” (A&C, 2.2) – no doubt about that. But she, too, neglects her political day job.

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras) Centre – Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra)

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras)
Centre – Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra)

Amongst the characters at Cleopatra’s court Chivas Michael deserves to be highlighted. As a spooky soothsayer he forecasts doom and as a eunuch, he contributes a series of wonderful funny moments, moreover, with his hypnotizing counter-tenor voice, he adds to the play’s intriguing atmosphere.
Sarah Niles as Charmian, lady-in-waiting to Cleopatra, also acts as warrior Menas and her colleague Iras, Charise Castro Smith, is also Octavia, Antony’s down-to-earth second wife. The profound difference in parts is easily mastered by both.

Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras), Samuel Collings (Octavius Caesar)

Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras), Samuel Collings (Octavius Caesar)

Samuel Collings portraying the underestimated Octavius/Napoleon displays a fantastically low key characterization in which the sizzling wrath of a geek is just about perceivable, right from the beginning.

Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus)

Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus)




Absolutely great: Chukwudi Iwuji, playing the part of Antony’s follower Enobarbus, he also offers semi-detached comments on the events, and, similar to the chorus in antique tragedies, he pronounces the audience’s germinating doubts and takes their eyes away from the all to obvious.

The music by Michael Thurber, with Andy Waterson on the guitar, Mat Heighwey on the bass and Akintayo Akinbode, as Music Director and on percussion, creates an ongoing spell of sensuality and tragedy.

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Samuel Collings (Octavius Caesar)

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Samuel Collings (Octavius Caesar)

Last but not least, an extra dose of praise to Gelan Lambert, responsible for movement, who with the Circle of Thirds, a drunk dance of the triumvirate Antony, Octavius and Pompey, created one of the most poignant (choreo-)graphic demonstrations of this moment in Roman history I have ever come across.

In the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until 30 November 2013, in Spring 2014 in New York and Miami.

Photos by Hugo Glendinning

This blog post has also been published in German under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/antony-cleopatra-genuss-ist-karrierefeindlich/