Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park
Earliest players found local area spaces in which to perform and such is the ethos of Veni Vidi, founded by Natalie-Anne Downs (Artistic Director, and Director of this production), Ed Dede and Nina Bjørklund, a new (2008) theatre company that supports classic and contemporary productions, often played in unique locations.
An open air venue such as this - the lawn at Lauderdale House within Waterlow Park (with an entrance on Highgate Hill) - allows the light and shade of Shakespeare's popular tragedy to be set against the light and shade of the elements, meaning that we begin in daylight and, as the play reaches its climax, find ourselves enveloped in darkness, with performers illuminated by stage lights. Magical.
The plot, in a nutshell, centres around a worthy and noble Moor (Othello) who falls for, and marries, a beautiful Venetian woman (Desdemona); their unconventional union is destroyed by the prevailing racial ideology, and - in the main - by Iago, the Moor's Ensign/PA/secretary, what you will, who cannot cope with his own envy at being overlooked for promotion and must therefore destroy his boss's happiness.
This Othello is a traditional one, with few cuts and reworkings, running at 2 hours 30 mins, including an interval, and the pleasingly mixed-age, hard-working ensemble provides an engaging version of the play.
In the leading role, Matthew Wade finds gravitas in part two as his Othello is reduced to pulp of misery at his wife's supposed infidelity; a jealousy fed and nurtured by Iago's poisonous and relentless taunts.
Tabitha Becker-Kahn is a convincing Desdemona and sings 'Willow' exquisitely. Laura Bacon brings worldly knowing to her Emilia, and there is a successful comedic relationship between James MacLaren's Roderigo and Rob Maloney's fine Iago. Katie Don-Hughes makes her mark as a feisty, flouncing Bianca.
Lauderdale House was built in 1582 (Shakespeare, at 18, might have been courting Anne Hathaway at the time), which makes it a perfect and glorious setting for Elizabethan/Jacobean drama. The grounds are idyllic, and it's easy to reach by tube and bus.
Sadly, last night's performance was beset by rain but this didn't dampen cast professionalism or audience enthusiasm and it's all part of what makes for an English summer. The production runs until Friday only, so come along, hope for clement weather, prepare for rain (no umbrellas allowed), bring a flask, and enjoy this laudable venture at Lauderdale.
Reviewer: Anita-Marguerite Butler