Othello in the court of Henry IV

Othello - Lancaster Castle

Sunday, 30th March 2014, 1:00 pm
Desdemona pleads with Othello.
Desdemona pleads with Othello.

The idea of staging Shakespeare in the ancestral home of a man who inspired some of his greatest plays is a brilliant one.

This month, Lancaster Castle, stronghold of Henry IV, whose history forms the Bard’s “Henriad” series, provides the backdrop for another of his most famous tragedies.

For the castle’s own company, Demi Paradise, new director Louie Ingham, guesting from The Dukes, has created a contemporary version of Othello in a setting already historic in Shakespeare’s day – and it’s a fascinating clash of ancient and modern.

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Plunged into the action almost before you realise, producer Stephen Tomlin beckons us on a journey through this newly opened up 1000 year old monument with the air of a magician as spectral music plays.

At times, in this tiny audience, it almost feels like lurking in the shadows as counsels of war are held, treacherous plots spun and love disintegrates.

Closure of the prison which once made most of this castle inaccessible means the journey can explore much more of this amazing building than Demi Paradise’s last production, Much Ado About Nothing, two years ago but, sadly, no scene in the famous Pendle Witches cell.

Chris Lindon dominates as a malevolent Iago and Gabriel Paul puts in a powerful performance as the Moorish general, Othello.

Lancashire-born actress Charlotte Dalton makes Desdemona’s innocence contrast well against Iago’s dastardly scheming and her fine boned stature against Paul’s powerful frame lends an added horror to the final scene.

For some, the extremes of contrast between the treatment and the setting may prove a little much.

A Desdemona in skinny jeans is maybe a little jarring.

But army fatigues employed in the war scenes give a brutishness which works well against the rough walls and torture instruments of Hadrian’s Tower.

The climatic murder scene is spellbinding – we feel like helpless witnesses to a husband brutally throttling his wife and the first night earned the cast a standing ovation.

These productions happen only once every two years and there are just a few tickets left for this month-long run.

Do not miss this fascinating chance to join an adventure through Shakespeare, the like of which can be seen nowhere else.

Judith Dornan