Trinity Pit Stop Theatre Co. presents William Shakespeare’s tale of jealousy, murder, racism, and betrayal in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world.
Should you see it?
I was hesitant to review this show since I’m not one to pull punches just because something is produced or performed by students. It’s not that I hold them to the same standards of experience as veteran performers but, thanks to my own high school experiences, I do expect a certain amount of quality and professionalism that is often sorely lacking. That being said, you can be sure I’m not being easy on Trinity Pit Stop Theatre Co. when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of Othello.
For those unfamiliar with its plot, here’s the crib-sheet version which may prove helpful in deciphering this abridged staging: Roderigo wants to marry Desdemona but you snooze, you lose, the proud general Othello’s wed her already. Note: Othello is a “Moor” which is old-school for “colored person”. Second note: Othello’s ensign, Iago, secretly hates his master and is friends with Roderigo. These notes come into play as Iago spends the bulk of the piece convincing Othello that his new bride is cheating on him which results in a whole lot of murder and violence. See for yourself how this grizzly tale unravels!
Othello had, in my view, the best set of anything at the Fringe Festival this year with its futuristic, dirty, punk/grunge style scaffolding full of glow-in-the-dark graffiti. Immediately I knew when and approximately where the story would take place. Although there was no reason for Shakespeare’s tale to be transported thus, I enjoyed the steampunk style (the costumes in particular were simply fantastic) and thought it might have made the tragic history more accessible for the youth in the audience.
The students handled the Bard’s material well and delivered their dialogues with ease but I honestly would have preferred a translated (modern) version of the script to better suit the scene. In my opinion, such a rewrite would have also been an excellent opportunity for an English class project or a young writer’s contest, in keeping with the youth-empowerment theme of high school theater.
Other than the slight mismatch between iambic pentameter and the thumping house music that was the soundtrack of this show, I thought Othello was fine Fringe fare. The energy was high throughout, the exits and entrances made good use of theater aisles (a ‘gimmick’ I always really like), and the pacing was excellent, if just a tad clipped. Everyone’s acting was strong but I have to admit that Ryan Downey’s creepy, scheming, absolutely villainous Iago stole the show.
However, my favorite part of Othello had to be the epic dance party at the start; much as I enjoyed the whole show, the most memorable moment was the team’s entrance and I love the way they integrated that vibe throughout. This was a fun and accessible retelling of one of Shakespeare’s darkest love stories. I can’t wait to see what these up-and-coming actors come up with next!
What did you think of Othello? Was the trendy retelling fun and fabulous, or did it fall flat? Are high school students the future of Ottawa theater or do they have a while to go before impressing you on stage? Join the discussion in the comments below.