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Unicorn Theatre
3 Feb - 3 March 2018
From £8
Monday 12 February 2018

Adapting one of Shakespeare’s most harrowing tragedies for 8 to 12 year olds was never going to be easy- which makes it all the more impressive that Unicorn Theatre managed it with such apparent ease. Under the direction of Ian Nicholson, a completely new version of the text comes to life.

The story is condensed and stripped back from the original, but its core remains very much intact: Othello, a military general for Venice has just married Desdemona, the Senator’s daughter, without her family’s consent. Iago, jealous and bitter that he hasn’t been promoted to Othello’s second in command, sets out to tear the couple apart, with terrible consequences. All this sounds heavy, but this production manages to remain undeniably funny and human at its heart. The staging and lighting design is beautiful and cleverly thought out in a way that both adults and children can appreciate. A real effort had been made to introduce children to Shakespeare in a way that’s neither condescending or excessively simplistic.

For all the wonderful direction, no production like this is possible without a cast who can bring it home, and here Nicholson’s Othello shone again. As the only woman onstage, Ayoola Smart’s Desdemona was particularly impressive, filled with a confidence and intolerance for nonsense, but with an obvious love for Okorie Chukwu’s authoritative but still buoyant Othello. The all black casting of this production had another interesting effect- moving the play’s debate away from racism, and towards inherent rather than learned traits such as our capacity for love, betrayal and envy.

The result is a short but sweet piece of theatre, perfect for giving children a platform from which to learn to love Shakespeare for life. Even though this was written by Shakespeare to be a tragedy, the young audience loved it! From being invited onto stage to give flowers to Desdemona to almost falling from their seats to catch falling bubbles, the Unicorn’s Othello clearly achieved what it set out to do- use a centuries old story to entrance a brand new generation.

Othello is showing at Unicorn Theatre until 3rd March 2018. To book tickets, please visit the website.

Curious Mum