Black and White Sextet

Reviewed for [The Stage](

Rosemary Branch, London
January 31-February 26
Author: William Shakespeare, adapted by Robert Pennant-Jones, who also directs
Producer: Rosemary Branch
Cast: Ben Onwukwe, Richard Earthy, Fliss Walton, Matt Reeves, Jason Eddy, Cleo Sylvestre
Running time: 2hrs

There is no reason why director Robert Pennant-Jones’ audacious filleting of ‘Othello;, reducing Shakespeare’s classic to two hours and a cast of six should work – but it does.

By choosing to relegate some plotlines to exposition delivered by pre-recorded video newscasts in 21st-Century English, or hinted at through snatches of mobile phone conversation, Black and White Sextet instead encourages us to focus on the emotional core of the play.

Iago dominates the first half even more than usual in this adaptation. Richard Earthy’s exaggerated portrayal may be better suited to a larger auditorium – his chilling half-whispers as he draws Othello in would be more welcome throughout.

Fliss Watson’s wide-eyed, intelligent Desdemona, whose love blinds her to her husband’s rage until the very last second, is the captivating core to this moving and intelligent production.

Once Iago’s claws are into him, Ben Onwukwe’s Othello quickly dominates the stage and with impressive support from Matt Reeves, Jason Eddy and Cleo Sylvestre one is left wondering why one should ever return to the longer version.

The seventh star of the show is Aaron Marsden’s imaginative folding set design. Rarely has a such a small space been utilised so effectively.