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OTHELLO (Everyman Company 2018)

14 actors. 4 productions. 5 months

Following the huge success of the 2017 Liverpool Everyman Rep Company, the theatre is again embarking on a rep season of plays - comprised of a cast of 14 actors - for their 2018 Line-up, which Sophie has had the privilege of casting.

The Everyman Company season runs from March to July 2018.

“If last season looked at our struggle to retain our humanity against all odds, then this season of plays looks at our attempts to shake it all up and do it differently." (Gemma Bodinetz)

Gemma Bodinetz’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s Othello will feature Golda Rosheuvel playing the title role as ideas of gender, race, sexuality and hierarchy are challenged in a man’s world. This is the first time that Othello has been played as a woman, by a woman, on the British stage. Audiences are invited into the not too distant future, a world of patriarchy, power, hatred and bigotry in a modern take on this classic Shakespearian tragedy.

★★★★ The Stage, Natasha Tripney - 'a magnificent performance':

'The Liverpool Everyman has played an ace by casting Golda Rosheuvel as Shakespeare’s jealous general in the third production of the company’s second rep season. She’s an actor of nuance and power. Rosheuvel has already played Mercutio – she was one of the best things in Daniel Kramer’s divisive Romeo and Juliet for Shakespeare’s Globe. By playing Othello explicitly as female, and as a lesbian, the play takes on new weight and begins to speak resonantly about the different way people are othered: by race, by gender and sexuality.

Gemma Bodinetz has located her production in a modern military base in Cyprus. Rosheuvel’s Othello is a quietly commanding presence. She doesn’t need to roar to break up a brawl. She combines grace with authority and a necessary metallic edge; that is until Patrick Brennan’s Iago starts dripping his poison in her ear.

Brennan feigns comradeship well while his Iago strives to bring her down. Misogyny becomes part of this cocktail. Her presence appears to offend him. Is he a relic of an old system, resentful of the way the world is changing, or something more malignant? Brennan plays him with a slippery efficiency. Emily Hughes gives the always slightly thankless role of Desdemona an endearing brightness. Cerith Flinn’s Cassio is a laddish but genial young soldier, all abs and swagger, prone to getting tanked on vodka. The production makes us aware of the costumes they both wear: her delicacy and femininity, his masculinity.

[...] the way the production deals with Othello’s sexuality and her status amid this world of men is fascinating and it’s a treat to watch her dive inside this role. The potency of seeing a woman, particularly an older, black woman, occupy this place of narrative centrality cannot be underestimated. More of this please.'

★★★★ The Times, Dominic Maxwell - Golda Rosheuvel convinces and compells as a lesbian Othello':

'The final hour is where this show lifts off [...] We see Othello’s love fighting a losing battle with her paranoia, her insecurity, her need to be decisive. I’m not sure I’ve seen the closing scenes of this great play done better.

As the setting goes from day to night, this eight-person ensemble strains less for effect and finds its focus, which is particularly true with Emma Bispham as Emilia, the play’s moral heart, and Cerith Flinn as a sinewy, eminently foolable Cassio. It’s Rosheuvel’s evening, though, and she pulls it off with unshowy aplomb.'

★★★★ Broadway World, Brogen Campbell:

'This classic is reimagined by the casting of Golda Rosheuvel as Othello. It isn't the first time Othello has been played by a woman, but importantly Rosheuvel's Othello is both undeniably female and a lesbian. Thus, Othello is an outsider in terms of race, gender and sexuality.

This adds a new dimension and tension to the play, and Rosheuvel manages to command the stage with ease. Her performance is electric.

Patrick Brennan's Iago is clearly jealous of Othello and conspiring against her. This could be due to a mixture of reasons: racism, power envy, misogyny. Brennan's Iago is the typical villain, slowly manipulating and dictating how events unfold.

One of the casualties is the innocent and pure Desdemona, played by Emily Hughes. Here, Desdemona is the embodiment of femininity, and her love seems to be driven by idolisation of Othello for her bravery, whilst Othello loves her sweetness. The same-sex romance feels tangible and tender.

A number of the characters offer comic relief in an otherwise very tense and dramatic production. Marc Elliot plays the somewhat camp Roderigo, who pays Iago in hopes of gaining Desdemona's affection.

Cerith Flinn's cheeky Cassio is the typical lad - top off, lustful and always up for a good time. Both of these characters are superbly performed. One of my highlights of the entire show was the scene featuring a very drunk Cassio.

This Shakespearean classic is revitalised by the casting of Golda Rosheuvel. It completely alters Othello's interactions and how status is portrayed and perceived. In a world full of men and heteronormative standards, there stands a powerful homosexual woman.

It's a great example of the way that both classics and contemporary plays can be cast to showcase a central character with a more interesting and progressive narrative.'

★★★★★ Liverpool Echo, Lottie Gibbons - 'Othello triumphantly challenges gender norms with this electric performance at Everyman':

'This use of modern-day gender reversal adds to the already challenging themes of race, class and rank, but ultimately changes the dynamics of the play. The same sex love affair between Othello, played by Golda Rosheuvel and Desdemona, played by Emily Hughes, is an all consuming romance, perhaps more passionate than previous heterosexual portrayals.However, one character that remains the same from Shakespeare's play to Bodinetz's revival is Iago. Characterised as the typical villain, Iago is frighteningly brilliant on stage, act by act you are drawn by his manipulative nature, at first betraying Roderigo to eventually murdering his wife, Emilia. In keeping with a Shakespeare tragedy, the relief characters of Bianca (Leah Gould), Roderigo (Marc Elliot) and Cassio (Cerith Flinn) still provide the audience with a glimmer of light comedy. The competition between Othello and Roderigo, who both share affections for Desdemona, is comedy in itself as Othello dons her army uniform, compared to Roderigo's Louis Vuitton accessories and pink chino jeans.

The talented actors were adept at taking the audience on an emotional journey culminating in the fatal ending.'

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Photograph: Jonathan Keenan

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