Othello Performance Workshop

Actor Oliver Wilson in the role of Othello

Actor Oliver Wilson in the role of Othello

Othello Workshop

Our second development session working with Actor Oliver Wilson took place in December. Luckily we caught him during a break from a nationwide tour of Antigone.

Working alongside Ben Spiller from 1623 Theatre Company based in Derby, we managed to rehearse and shoot some scenes featuring the character of Othello.  Ben is known for re-interpreting Shakespeare in imaginative ways and often in non-traditional settings.  With this in mind, and after much discussion and re-readings, we managed to shoot a speech and a monologue. One of which was shot on the steps of Derby Council’s offices with Ben reprising his role as the Duke.

The first thing we did was to work on the speech Othello gives to the Duke.  This is the speech following on from Othello’s spirited defense of his love for Desdemona – “I won his daughter” Othello, Act 1 Scene 3.

Now Othello has to proved exactly how Desdemona a white Venetian woman, came to love him, a Black Moor from Africa.

In this second defensive speech to the Duke, Othello details how his stories that wooed Desdemona not the “mighty magic’ he is accused of using. The truth is that it was Desdemona who was drawn to him; “She’d come again, and with a greedy ear.” Othello Act 1, Scene 3.

Othello states a few times that he’s a man of action not a great speaker “Rude am I in my speech, And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace’ Othello, Act 1 Scene 3.

But in reality, he is a pretty good speaker and can throw out some lyrics when needed ( well it is Shakespeare giving him the words!). Proof of this is when Desdemona said to Othello that: ”if I had a friend that loved her, I should but teach him how to tell my story. And that would woo her:” Othello Act 1, Scene 3

During this speech, Othello talks about his adventures in distant lands, and stretching the truth, he mentions a mythical tribe and strangely shaped humans “The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads Grew beneath their shoulders.” Othello, Act 1 Scene 3. During some research Ben had found some fantastic images published around the time of the play was written.  This gives real insight into the mind and influences of the great bard!

"The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads Grew beneath their shoulders. "

“The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Grew beneath their shoulders. “

New World Cannibals

Othello is awarded few monologues in the play.  During the second part of the session we focused on the moment after  Iago has sown the seed of doubt about Desdemona’s fidelity and warned Othello of the “green eyed” monster that is jealousy.

Oliver Wilson as Othello

Oliver Wilson as Othello, Act 3 Scene 3

During this intensely private moment in Act 3 Scene 3, we gain insight into Othello’s state of mind and thought process. “Honest Iago” is manipulating Othello. Iago has placed doubt enough to move the play and the character of Othello towards its tragic conclusion.

We re-imagined the monologue as a selfie a personal moment yet public, with Oliver taking straight to camera.  We recorded  on a mobile phone to give the footage an authentic look and sound. Oliver was able to work at the scale of a mobile camera and give a fantastic performance that leaps out of its small screen.

These workshops are about developing our understanding of Othello so that we can share this with Othello Unbound project audiences. Today’s session is part of the Othello Unbound Project which encourages the creative exploration of Shakespeare’s Othello.  This Destinations Arts initiative is supported by Sheffield Hallam University and funded by Arts Council England.