Here is the perfect setup for a Shakespearean fall like no other — a Venetian general who had it all: a successful career, a faithful wife and the respect and adoration of his friends and colleagues. The story of power, passion, and betrayal, Othello was penned in 1604 by William Shakespeare, and though never dead, the play is resurrected this month at the Segal Centre.
In a harrowing display of devious plotting and manipulation, Othello loses everything in a downward spiral meticulously orchestrated by Iago, his advisor, who has grown jealous and resentful.
The play is considered Shakespeare’s most terrible tragedy, taking the audience on a dark journey, exploring themes of suspicion, paranoia, jealousy and malevolence.
“It’s the original psychological thriller,” said Andrea Elalouf, the public relations coordinator for the Segal Centre. “It’s about manipulation and lies […] the subject matter never gets old.”
Joseph Shragge is the dramaturg and assistant director for the production. An award-winning playwright, Shragge was attracted to the play because of the magnitude of chaos and destruction inflicted on the characters.
“It’s a very brutal precipitous fall,” he said. “Everything starts really happy and you really can’t imagine the horrors that will come.”
Shragge believes that it is this devastating downfall that keeps audiences enthralled.
“There’s just something exciting about watching terrible things happen.”
The classically trained ensemble cast comes from all over Canada. Andrew Moodie plays the tormented Othello, Sean Arbuckle plays the manipulative Iago and Amanda Lisman who plays Desdemona, Othello’s loving wife. All three have vast experience in theatre including the Stratford Theatre, and credits in television and film.
“When you see Shakespeare done by really talented actors, you’re able to appreciate the poetry and the beauty of the language,” said Shragge.
This new production of Othello is trying to rejuvenate the subject matter and walk the line between classical tradition and modern interpretation.
“Overall our approach to the design of this show [is] to use elements of Shakespeare’s time and place and combine them with modern elements,” said David Oppenheim, the sound designer of the play. “I was inspired by the music of Claudio Monteverdi who was composing music at the same time that Shakespeare wrote the play.”
By combining Monteverdi’s period music with his own modern touches, Oppenheim hopes to create an experience for the viewer that is both familiar and novel.
Shragge and Oppenheim are both Concordia graduates. Shragge studied English and playwriting and Oppenheim studied philosophy and religion. Both graduates are part of an independent production company called Scapegoat Carnivale that produces original theatre for an audience that seeks a little edge in their entertainment. Scapegoat Carnivale has been very successful at consistently producing award winning plays such as their 2012 adaptation of The Bacchae that won nine META awards, including best production. Now they are collaborating with the Segal Centre to bring Othello to the stage.
“The Segal Centre has built up a reputation for really high quality theatre,” said Shragge about the collaboration with the Centre. “For a smaller independent company like us, it’s a huge opportunity to produce something the way we want it to be done.”
Othello plays at the Segal Centre until Dec. 1. For tickets please visit segalcentre.org