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Friday, May 14, 2010

Here comes 'Othello': 'the best play ever'

Special to The Japan Times

"The tragedy 'Othello' was written by Shakespeare at the height of his powers [around 1602], its poetry is finer than 'Hamlet,' its psychology deeper than 'Macbeth,' its love story more compelling than 'Romeo and Juliet,' its heartbreaking tragedy more moving than 'King Lear.' 'Othello' might be the finest play ever written."

News photo
Cutting edge: A scene from "Othello," which ITCL brings to Japan this month.

So spake Paul Stebbings, founder and artistic director of the International Theatre Company London, as he prepared for his company's 34th tour of Japan. Since ITCL's debut here, with its award-winning "Wizard of Jazz" in 1992, stagings of such works as "Oliver Twist," "Animal Farm" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray" have ensured its visits are keenly awaited by theater lovers and English learners alike. Lately, however, ITCL has tended to focus more on Shakespeare, including his "Romeo and Juliet" and "Hamlet," so providing Japanese audiences with a great opportunity to witness the Bard brought to life in the vernacular.

Although "Othello" is often described as a racial tragedy (of the Moorish military leader, Othello), or a study in the nightmarish fate of evil Iago, Stebbings said he believes it is not so much about evil, as about "sins" that are as prevalent now as ever. Referring to the black Venetian general, he highlights Othello's anger and pride; while regarding the rich Roderigo, who breaks willful Desdemona's heart, he points to lust; and then there is Othello's young lieutenant, Cassio, who succumbs to sensual excess. Add to all that death wishes and suicide, and it's a drama indeed about to unfold here as ITCL embarks on a 30-county tour of four continents.

The staging features live music and singing by the cast, to an original score by Thomas Johnson.

"Othello" (with Japanese subtitles) plays May 18 at 6 p.m. at the Rikkoukai Hall, a 2-minute walk from Shinbanba Station on the Keihin-Kyuko Line. It then moves to Sendai (May 19) and Kyoto (May 31). It also tours 14 universities from Sendai to Fukuoka — including several Tokyo performances — from May 17 till June 5.
For more details, call ITCL Japan at (03) 5469-2869 or visit www.stageplay.jp Nobuko Tanaka's theater blog (in Japanese) is at thestage.cocolog-nifty.com

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