“Does Shakespeare really need to be dragged into the 21st century?” you may wonder after seeing this production, by new company Orangutan, which pairs the original text with a film noir-style backdrop. In actual fact, the story of jealousy, murder, betrayal and archetypical female roles fits surprisingly well. Less seamless is the fusion of 17th-century lyrical dialogue with a genre of moviemaking famed for its low-key understatement. In trying to marry the two together, director Rebekah Fortune transports us to a strange place somewhere in-between.
Set and costume designers Libby Todd and Eleanor Bull fill the stage with the iconic images of 1940s and 50s films – sharp-brimmed hats, dynamic shadows and slinky dresses. However, the performers often seem trapped between embracing the soaring melodrama and toning down their emotions to fit a far less verbose 21st century mood. As Stefan Adegbola’s well-spoken Othello converses with Peter Lloyd’s Northern Iago, while sitting in a café, the drama falls out of what should be an increasingly tense relationship faster than the waitress can top-up their coffee.