Forties something

24th October 2003 at 01:00
OTHELLO by William Shakespeare. Royal Theatre, Northampton

Aleks Sierz looks forward to an Othello inspired by Second World War settings

Dealing with a husband's murder of his wife in a jealous rage, Othello is the most domestic of Shakespeare's tragedies. But although the play is mainly free of the overt racial prejudice common in Jacobean drama, its subtext is that people who, like Othello, look "different" are sexually exotic and potentially violent.

Director Rupert Goold says: "The look of our version is inspired by films such as The English Patient and Captain Corelli's Mandolin. I became interested in how, during the Second World War, black American servicemen came to Britain and how some of them married British women despite the strong social stigma at the time. In the 1940s, British society was going through an interesting negotiation with deference and class."

As well as the themes of sex, jealousy and evil, Goold focuses on "uncertainty and what happens when you're cut adrift from one certainty and unable to reach the next certainty. So Othello and the others are a study in uncertainty, and only Iago has the ability to author himself. He wills his actions while the others find limits to their free will."

The key to Othello is "an innate dignity offset by a deep insecurity, a self-doubt. He's big-hearted and fundamentally innocent." In the case of Desdemona, Goold wants "to get away from the habit of playing her as a simpering, Pre-Raphaelite heroine. We're exploring how profoundly the betrayal of her father affects her. She has a free-spirit quality which is often ignored."

Goold's inspirations were American actor Ron Cephas Jones, in the title role, and Finbar Lynch, his Iago. Goold says: "I became interested in the American black experience in an attempt to get away from the traditional English view of the play. Ron comes from a different sensibility; he knows about racism and slavery. He also brings a New York vocal sound to the part."

Of all Shakespeare's plays, Othello is perhaps "the most exciting," says Goold. "Its preoccupation with a killer is very contemporary."

Until November 1. Tel: 01604 624 811; workshops, Dani Parr 01604 627566 Email: dani.parr@ntt.org.uk www.royalandderngate.com

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