It has been eight years since Stafford Festival Shakespeare has tackled one of the Bard’s tragedies so it was impressive to see that the creative team embraced this year’s production of Othello with the same gusto that has made the festival’s comedies such crowd pleasers.
The gripping plot, driven by jealousy, shows the best and worst of mankind, from the sweet and loyal Desdemona to the green-eyed, vengeful Iago, and Stafford Festival Shakespeare carried the audience expertly through the tragic plot on a wave of ever-changing emotions.
The standout performance came from Oliver Wilson in the title role, who brilliantly portrayed the wronged Moor. He skilfully led his character through the transition from self-assurance and pride, to bewildered anguish, to seething rage, to explosive fury and back again to tortured anguish. In the shocking final scenes featuring Desdemona’s murder and Othello’s suicide, the audience collectively held its breath at Wilson’s heartfelt performance, beautifully complemented by the talented Hester Arden as the devastated Emilia.
Niall Costigan gave a cool portrayal of the villainous Iago, Othello’s jealous friend, that built in impetus to the devastating finale. Costigan’s understated performance invited a confidence with the audience that drew us in and even in the horrific conclusion of his devious plot, his portrayal remained chillingly calm.
All credit must go to the whole ensemble who, as so often is the case with Festival Shakespeare, battled the elements with true professionalism. Even during a beach scene in torrential rain, the actors did not break character or display their discomfort. Stafford Festival Shakespeare, this year with a new creative team, has once again staged an original, inventive and mesmerising production, and proved itself as adept at tragedy as it is at comedy.
If you haven’t yet watched Shakespeare under the atmospheric shadow of Stafford Castle, we highly recommend that you make the trip in 2017.