There are few better ways to spend an evening than on a picnic mat (with a bottle of wine), under the stars at historic Fort Canning Park while watching one the Bard's compelling tales essayed out in such a grand scale.
This is exactly the experience the Singapore Repertory Theatre wants you to have at 'Shakespeare in the Park. In its fifth year running, this is one of the city's more anticipated theatre events of the year (the queues and crowds prove this).
‘Othello’ is director Bruce Guthrie's second play at Fort Canning (Last year's ‘Twelfth Night’ won rave reviews), and this time again the play is in a 'modern-day' setting at a contemporary war zone. Othello, played by actor Daniel Francis, is the Moor army general who murders his lover, Desdemona (played by Wendy Kweh) in a fit of jealous rage and insecurity induced by his advisor Iago (played by Daniel Jenkins).
The sets are magnificent. Expect, army barracks, military ships, containers, satellites and even a digital screen with night-vision cameras thrown in and Othello's army-men strutting around in crisp military uniforms.
Francis plays a very charismatic Othello, unfortunately his character remains charismatic throughout and fails to bring out Othello's weakness and insecurity as the show (and story) progress. It is that missing insecurity that Iago, the vengeful ensign, uses to play him when he promotes Cassio over him. He schemes with Rodrigo (played by Shane Mardjuki) to make Othello believe that his new bride has been unfaithful to him with Cassio.
Thus ensues a tale of love destroyed by jealousy, and in our case the sets emerges the hero. That you will watch this play because it is one of Shakespeare’s finest tragedies, is a given, but do also watch this place for its few stellar moments.
Iago and Rodrigo communicating with the audience via a night vision camera that gives an unparalleled point of view and the scene where Iago tips Othello over by asking him to recall how Desdemona tricked her father by marrying him. Yet the cast fail to even touch upon several questions that is on the audience's minds.
Why does Iago go to such lengths to play Othello? Why does Othello not confront Cassio? The original works do leave these ambiguous and in parts the actors' body language misleads.
If you do not take it too seriously, and enjoy Othello for the complete experience it is. You will have a good evening. In a beautiful park, under the night sky. The bottle of wine will help too.