On the 25th of April 2015, I had the opportunity to catch the 8. 30 p. m. performance of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, “Othello,” at KLPAC. Directed by Lim Kien Lee and Qahar Aqilah, the show stars Grace Ng, Sandee Chew, Lim Soon Heng, Arief Hamizan, David H. Lim, Kgia Loong and Kien Lee himself in the title role. Shakespeare Demystified: Othello tells a tale of prejudice, love, envy, jealousy and murder – all in 100 minutes. The play starts off with Roderigo (Kgia Loong) telling Brabantio (David) that his daughter, Desdemona (Ng) has eloped with Othello, the General of the Venetian Army.
He is not happy as Othello is of African and Arabian descent but Desdemona convinces him that she truly does love Othello. Meanwhile, Iago (Lim) who has been Othello’s comrade for many years is mad with rage as he was not chosen for the post of Leftenant. Instead, Othello chose Michael Cassio (Arief) for the post. Driven by envy, Iago spreads rumours of Desdemona’s affair with Cassio to Othello causing Othello to doubt Desdemona’s loyalty to her. The production used a very minimalistic set. Six black boxes were used and manipulated throughout the play to show the different settings.
It is important to note that most of the time, it is often Iago who is moving the boxes around to show the next scene. According to Kien Lee, this was because in the plot, it is Iago who is doing all the manipulation through his words and actions. Therefore it seemed fitting that Iago should be the one ‘manipulating’ the sets. The lighting was plain white throughout the show due to the nature of the minimalistic set. In the original play, Othello is a black man. As Kien Lee is Chinese, the difference between Othello and the other characters was represented by a change in costume. The acting on a whole was quite convincing.Order now
Lim’s portrayal of Iago was superb. He managed to show Iago’s evil side in a rather unconventional, quiet way. As for Grace Ng, the peak of her performance was during her rendition of the song ‘Willow’. You could almost feel her breaking in the song, torn between her love for Othello and the confusion regarding his behaviour. At one point it even felt like she was on the brink of suicide. The last person I would like to mention is Sandee Chew’s interpretation of Emilia. Several scenes involving Emilia were cut from the script to fit the time. Therefore the gradual change in Emilia’s character was speeded up greatly, although not too suddenly.
And though only playing a small role, Emilia’s character brought up valid questions about the society those days, some of which are still relevant today. Kien Lee’s performance as Othello was a little too over the top. But then again, Shakespeare’s plays were always insanely dramatic. However, Kien Lee’s acting did not quite match the more natural acting style of the others. Also, his Chinese accent slipped out occasionally. Besides that, some of the words uttered by the actors ran together, making it extremely difficult to understand at times.