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Belgrade B2, Coventry, review: Nothello


Nothello, Belgrade B2, Coventry, to May 21.

Review by Heidi Barber

This latest B2 production supported by Coventry UK city of culture, is an imaginative and exciting rethinking of the climax of the Shakespeare tragedy when Othello, tormented by jealousy, murders Desdemona.

The main protagonist here, Nothello (Harris Cain,) challenges that ending and all it might imply about blackness, lack of self-control, and stereotypical perceptions of black men’s treatment of women. He then holds the cast hostage in order to reinvent the play with a humorous and life-enhancing message about love and tolerance, regardless of race.

The main conceit is that he and his twin Desdeknownow (Aimee Powell) are yet to be born (Desdemona is pregnant) and can only be born if their parents survive.

While this leads to lots of discussion on what it is like to be mixed race and how people feel about this, the play never preaches and can be enjoyed for the sheer physicality of the actors, the dancing and jokes which come thick and fast.

With minimal props, the cast successfully create a sense of energy, and the use of the four poster bed (where Desdemona lies dead at the beginning of the play) as a trampoline, a climbing frame and a piece of gymnastic equipment, powerfully symbolises the sheer joy of being alive.

It's a thought-provoking and inventive production and, who knows, maybe if Shakespeare was alive and writing today he may well have given one of his characters the provocative line “Who needs labels man? This is the 21st century”.

It was refreshing to see a youthful cast embracing this play which, unlike the original, has an upbeat, joyful ending.

Tickets: belgrade.co.uk

Pictured: Gabriel Akamo and Harris Cain in Nothello. Photo by Robert Day