Otelo is a highlighting of Desdemona’s murder in Shakespeare’s Othello, as a reminder of the horrific femicide rates in Latin America. The play is part of the CASA Latin America Theatre Festival 2017.
Nicole Espinoza as Emilia wears a simple white and black maid’s dress and Jaime Lorca features Iago in a grey suit. The puppets they direct are also dressed in robes full of straightforward symbolisms that work for the benefit of the story. These simple and somewhat over-stereotyped costumes (Loreto Monsalve) keep the story in touch with Shakespeare’s classic drama.
Not so classic is the use of puppets. Desdemona and Othello are two full-size mannequins with removable heads (a feature that is happily and effectively used!). The symbolism in that couldn’t be more blunt and adds significantly to the humour of the show. While the theme is tragic, there are none the less plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.
The directing of the play is excellent. It built in impressive imagery that stays in the audiences mind like photographs. Such as Desdemona’s white dress being pulled across Othello’s bed to reveal a bright red blanket lying underneath as the suspicion of her betrayal turns into an obsession.
Also the staging is indeed witty. It features a double bed as the central prop, which is transformed into a shooting range and a bathtub as needed. With the bed being the main scenery, it creates the intimate atmosphere of two lovers and makes the loss of trust even more vivid as the former safe haven turns into the scene of a murder.
However, a slight down point is that it is not easy to follow the play while reading the subtitles at the same time, as the acting is very physical. Otelo is staged in Spanish with subtitles displayed on a screen at the back of the stage.
However, that screen is not at the centre, but rather to the right side from the audience’s point of view. That makes reading the subtitles and watching the stage at the same time a difficult task at first. Especially as one doesn’t want to miss any moves from Nicole Espinoza and Jaime Lorca, as the two have incredible charm and humour in their acting.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t take too long to adapt. By the time the play reaches its climax, one hardly notices the subtitles anymore, as the puppetry is too captivating.