After a string of successful ‘Zoom theatre on steroids’ productions during the pandemic, Streamed Shakespeare is venturing out of the screen and onto the live stage with OTHELLO, the company’s first live, in-person production, showing in Leichhardt this November.
After critically acclaimed productions of Titus Andronicus and Henry IV Parts One and Two, director Haki Pepo Olu Crisden returns to Streamed Shakespeare with a compelling modern vision for Othello, a play recognized as one of Shakespeare’s most challenging to direct and produce. This innovative show transports The Moor from the streets of Venice to the basketball courts of modern Australia.
I wanted to give this classic tragedy a modern setting, Placing Othello in the world of contemporary professional men’s basketball allows a few things: First, it places us in a world that is still extremely masculine, shining more of a light on the misogyny in the show; second, it’s a world where an African-American character in contemporary Australia can be powerful and highly valued, yet isolated; and finally, it provides a realistic way to have these characters sort of sequestered from the world for the events that happen in the second half of the play.
Apart from all that, it also provides a template for a ‘physical language’ for the characters in
the play who are basketball players.
Crisden has assembled an incredible cast of Streamed Shakespeare regulars and newcomers, including English teacher Sam Morell as the title character, Julia Landrey as Desdemona, Brendan Flood as her controlling father Brabantio, Chad Traupmann as Shakespeare’s greatest villain, Iago, and Sally Willams as his long-suffering wife, Emilia.
We are incredibly fortunate to have the talented mix of newer actors and more experienced performers that we do Othello is about exploring how the human shortcomings and weaknesses that society nurtures and perpetuates can threaten and, ultimately, destroy what is beautiful about people and the human condition. It is a challenge for a cast to embody so much that is good and bad about humanity in one show – and our team has worked hard and done it extremely well.”
Producer and company Artistic Director Holly Champion is enthusiastic about Haki’s vision.
Haki and I have worked together before, and this time he came to me with this wonderful modern concept for Othello that really relates to his own lived experience as an African- American expat living in Australia. Racism is something we often shy away from talking about in this country, even though it’s so endemic here, as we’ve seen particularly lately with the referendum. So it’s great to be able to explore racism in such an accessible yet complex way through this play. I would have only wanted to produce Othello with a director who has a BIPOC identity themselves and who has a strong track record as a director as well as a strong concept. Haki really fits the bill and is doing a fabulous job leading our cast and crew.
Initially set up in 2020 to provide Zoom theatre opportunities for suddenly out-of-work actors and creatives, Streamed Shakespeare has evolved far beyond its original aims. It is now a Sydney-based indie theatre company, incorporating live theatre and video. While this production will be videoed for release early in 2024, Champion also hopes to strengthen the company’s position and technical expertise with this production so they can return to streaming future shows live online.
Having grown up in a tiny regional town, then living in inner Sydney, and now living in another small town, I understand how hard it can be for regional audiences to access quality live theatre.
This is especially true for the young, the elderly, and the disadvantaged, who can’t travel to major cities as easily. I really want to help regional audiences access live-streamed theatre performed in their time zone and, through that, share a connection with the performers and creatives, for example, through post-show.
We also hope to physically tour Othello in the future to regional schools and theatres. In the meantime, we are presenting this show live to Sydney audiences, and releasing the video, and having a great time doing it.
OTHELLO opens with a school’s matinee preview (also open to the public) at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, 9 November, at Leichhardt Uniting Church. It runs until Saturday 18 November.
Venue: Leichhardt Uniting Church
Date: 09- 18 Nov 2023
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