Othello review: If you’re going to mess with Shakespeare, you need to be sure of your footing

Othello. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Playhouse

Othello. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Playhouse - Credit: Supplied by Norwich Playhouse

The Pantaloons took to the stage at The Playhouse in Norwich for their reivention of Shakespeare's Othello.

If you're going to mess with Shakespeare, you need to be sure of your footing.

From the Reduced Shakespeare Company to Drunk Shakespeare, there have been many successful reinventions of the Bard's works. The Pantaloons attempt a similar trick - but fall someway short.

Director Stephen Purcell's adaptation cannot decide whether it is a parody or a serious production, and so pantomime physical comedy is wedged uncomfortably next to tragic scenes.

The action is supposedly transferred to a jazz club, but there is no matching atmosphere: the perfunctory set and lack of lighting design do nothing to help. More surprisingly for a show riddled with songs, none of the cast have particularly strong voices.

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The cast are clearly more comfortable in the enlarged comic scenes and there are some genuinely funny parts: Alex Rivers flies through her audience interaction, and Chris Smart has plenty of fun with in-jokes about playing four parts - including two characters who fight each other. The deservedly get big laughs from the audience.

When it comes to actually telling the story though, it is only Rivers who has the technical skill to make the verse real. The rest of the cast frequently fall into the trap of just reciting their lines, or shouting for the emotional bits.

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Othello is a strange choice to try to turn into a comedy but there is always scope to be playful if you have the confidence of your convictions. This production can't decide what it wants to be, so ends up being disappointing.

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