othello . . . sort of

Gabriel Akamo as Othello . . . as Shakespeare would have it. Pictures: Robert Day


B2 Belgrade Theatre


Nothello is a masterpiece. It is the final show in Coventry’s City of Culture year, produced by the Belgrade Theatre, and it’s a corker. It takes the seemingly simple idea that if you have a bonfire of the ‘isms’ – ageism, racism, sexism to start with – William Shakespeare’s Othello could be a happy play.

Nothello begins at the end of William Shakespeare’s Othello with Desdemona (Rayyah McCaul) lying dead and Othello (Gabriel Akamo) admitting he has killed her because she was unfaithful. Iago (Alex Scott Fairley) has to explain his part in this fiction to his wife Emilia who knows for certain that Desdemona loved Othello truly.

A chap in the second row stalls has quite a lot to add and a new perspective to bring to the story. Who is he?

Desdemona’s unborn twins Nothello (Harris Cain) and Desdeknowhow (Aimee Powell) have waited four centuries to be born and their status as ‘half-casts’, mixed heritage or mulattos is confusing them.

Shakespeare had a serious soft spot for twins. They and Othello, as Shakespeare’s only black hero, married to Desdemona, a white woman, have all paid a heavy price for society’s racism and Nothello sets himself the task of unravelling their views from the vantage point of the ‘Brexit cesspit’.


Rayyah McCaul (Desdemona, Emilia, Cathy) and Aimee Powell (Desdeknownow)

Has Shakespeare unwittingly provided a set of stereotypes that have lingered and fed into societies’ views on black men? The actors are challenged as actors, characters and people on their perspective. It is revealing and often amusing. And, yes, handkerchiefs get a mention. Othello hands it to his son to blow his nose.

There are comedy moments, the writing (Mojisola Adebayo . . . and William Shakespeare) is wonderful, and particularly lovely is the scene where all of Othello’s family come to visit with jerk chicken, dancing and warmth.

The community chorus, young and older, added such a lot too. Desdeknowhow sums up the play beautifully with her pithy wish, “I would like to tell my grandchildren what racism WAS.” If you like your theatre innovative, thought-provoking and challenging, I’ve never seen anything like this before and I would go again in a heartbeat. Direted Justine Themen it runs to  21-05-22.

Jane Howard


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