How entirely appropriate in this present-day era of fake news and revenge politics, that the 2019 Stratford Festival opened with a colour-correct production of Othello.
In director Nigel Shawn Williams’ very capable hands, Shakespeare’s tale of emboldened deceit was given a decidedly two-hander approach, pitting the hapless Moor (Michael Blake in first-class form as he is moulded like clay to the point of murder) being driven to deadly despair by his extra-loyal underling/advisor, Iago (Gordon Miller is marvellously despicable bidding others to do his nefarious will by spouting half-truths at best and easily lying through his nefarious teeth).
Other impressive performances emanate from Laura Condlin’s wide-ranging Emilia, Jonathan Sousa’s readily perplexed Cassio and Shruti Kothari’s tart-with-a-heart rendering of Bianca.
Designer Denyse Karn’s Spartan set is brought to engaging life by the visual magic stemming from her own inventive projections. Verne Good’s original music and sound design fit the ongoing action like the proverbial glove, adding much to the production’s steady flow.
As Othello’s bed fills with bodies and apparent justice is ready to be meted out, thoughtful viewers are simultaneously reminded as to (a) what can happen when blatant untruths are spread to all who would hear, and (b) the faint hope that those who willingly perpetuate them will—someday—be held to account.
Given the current state of non-affairs in the White House and Queen’s Park, one can only hope that two more Iago’s will soon get their just desserts before the curtain falls on the rest of us.
And after last year’s cowardly bomb threat (a hoax) shutting down the 2018 opening night, it was calming but somewhat unsettling to see many of Stratford’s finest standing on guard for we. For the first time in my life, I felt more comfortable sitting during the national anthem, than standing and singing (badly) because we are supposed to. JWR