On Friday night Jamie and I headed to the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre to watch a production of Othello. Neither of us new the story, the only thing we knew was that it was a tragedy.
The only experience Jamie had had of Shakespeare previous to Friday night was studying Romeo and Juliet for his GCSE's - and he quite likes the Baz Lhurmann film adaptation. I have been exposed a little more, I have watched a few of Shakespeare's plays in the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in previous years and I studied twelfth night as well as Romeo and Juliet for my English literature GCSE all in all not a huge amount!
In past years I have been impressed by the beautiful and atmospheric setting the imaginative staging, costume detail, and good acting.
Othello did not disappoint.
I found the below image on the Chester Performs blog, they do many other things in Chester as well as putting on the Open Air Theatre every year.
Before heading to the theatre we popped in to Waitrose to pick up some posh picnic nosh. I love seeing what food people bring, some go all out with full on meals and champagne, when booking you can book a hamper to be made for you (I'm always jealous) everyone eating and drinking helps create a lovely atmosphere.
We had booked seats on the terrace, but upon arrival I realised that was a big mistake. I would have nowhere to lean against and I wouldn't have managed the whole evening with my back unsupported. So I asked one of the attendants if we could sit on the back row, so I could lean against the wall. She found the manager and he was so kind, they had no space on the top terrace but they found us some deck chairs to sit on. I have to say a massive thank you to Chester Performs because if we had been unable to move, we were going to go home. (I may have shed a tear at the kindness shown me- stupid pregnancy hormones!)
When the play started it quickly became apparent that the words, structure and phraseology of Shakespeare were not going to be easy for Jamie to follow. It also took quite some effort on my part to work out all that was being said.
All credit must go to the actors who made it possible for us both to follow the story, regardless of our Shakespearean naivety! As we watched and became used to the rhythm of the language we both found it easier to understand.
Iargo was a great villan, heartless and cruel but as with most evil characters he seemed to be motivated by some great tragedy in his past, which was hinted at but never fully revealed. With a great twisting plot unable to predict what was going to happen next or work out what would happen in the end,we were on the edge of our deckchairs.
The minimal set was used to great effect, enabling the audience to imagine different places with ease.
The play was at times disturbing, as I imagine Shakespeare had intended. The strangulation of Desdemona very realistic, and the pile of bodies at the end was harrowing.
We left unsettled.
Unfortunately Jamie now believes that every Shakespeare play ends with a pile of bodies... I think next year I will take him to a comedy.
There are a few weeks of performances left at the Open Air Theatre. If you can get there you should, but don't forget your essentials; picnic, blanket, cushions and wine (if you aren't pregnant).