Swordfights, singing, drunkenness, and love – Shakespeare had fun when he wrote the first acts of Othello.
“I’ve watched versions of it where it’s total comedy at the start,” says Sean Killackey, director of the Beach’s Bard in the Park theatre company.
“I think that’s what makes it a better tragedy in the end,” Killackey said.
“It draws the audience in, maybe gives them a sense of comfort and happiness, and then stabs them in the heart.”
Shrouded in real fog and accompanied by the ‘thwack’ of tennis balls from the courts nearby, Othello opened last night in Norwood Park, where it will continue until June 13 before the actors move to their traditional home in Kew Gardens.
Now in their 10th year, Killackey said everyone in Bard in the Park wanted a fresh challenge. Othello is the first real tragedy they have put on since staging Macbeth for their first run back in 2005.
“It is a challenge,” said James Soares, who plays the villainous Iago.
“He’s my all-time favourite Shakespeare character – deliciously evil, but at the same time, human.”
Besides mastering their roles, Soares said playing outdoors in Kew Gardens and Norwood Park, means the actors may have to contend with cars, planes, the tennis courts, or even squirrel-chasing dogs for attention.
But led by ten-year veterans like Killackey and actors Keith Williams, and Melissa Beveridge (who also designed this year’s costumes), not to mention Shakespeare’s own guiding hand, Othello is sure to entertain.
“I think it’s wrong to think of tragedy as always dark and sombre – you have to find the comedy in the tragic,” said Soares. Tragedies sting more when the audience has grown to love the characters, he said, or, in Iago’s case, if they love to hate them.
Sponsored by Community Centre 55, Othello plays at 7 p.m. until June 13 in Norwood Park, and from June 16 to 21 at Kew. There will also be two 2 p.m. matinee performances on June 21 and 22. A donation of $10 is suggested.