Review: Desdemona – A Play About A Handkerchief, Park

“I want to be a free woman”

Just a quickie as this was the final night of the run. Paula Vogel’s play requires an innate understanding of Shakespeare’s Othello as it takes a behind-the-scenes look at what might have passed between the three women of the play when the gaze falls away from them. The titular Desdemona, her ladies’ maid Emilia and the working girl Bianca work through home concerns, matters of the heart and of course, that pesky handkerchief that proves so vital in the original play, and it is all rather surprisingly entertaining.

Much of this is due to the expectation shift that comes from the characterisation here. Alice Bailey Johnson’s Desdemona is a spoilt little rich girl, obsessed with sex and so finding Ursula Early’s Bianca the perfect little plaything to facilitate her explorings and suggesting what might have aroused Othello’s suspicions so. And Ingrid Lacey’s Emilia, the wife of the nefarious Iago lest we forget, is a deeply compassionate and put-upon third wheel, which in turn goes some way to explaining her own actions.

James Bounds’ airily light production has a lovely energy about it, the fourth wall breaking feels entirely appropriate, and Kelli Des Jarlais’ set design allows a simple but effective staging which brings texture and interest, especially when Christopher Nairne’s lighting comes into play as well. A fascinating companion piece to Othello but also a good play in its own right.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Ross Gamble

Booking until 8th June

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