Dramatic, dynamic…deadly! QE’s Othello ‘a brilliant evening of theatre’

Dramatic, dynamic…deadly! QE’s Othello ‘a brilliant evening of theatre’

A performance of Othello by the School’s senior actors has been roundly praised by a representative of the Shakespeare Schools Festival.

The production of the tragedy, performed during the SSF at the Arts Depot in Finchley and then again in School to Year 11, was a central part of the inaugural QE Shakespeare Festival. This week-long celebration of the works of England’s greatest playwright was brought to an end by an “inspiring” and “hugely entertaining” lecture to Year 10 from John Mullan, a professor of English at University College London.

In her written appraisal of the performance addressed to the cast of 18 boys from Years 9–13, Lisa Ors, of the SSF, said: “Congratulations on a dramatic, dynamic and deadly production. Staging a Shakespeare play in these changing times takes extra courage, tenacity, and creativity. You should be incredibly proud of what you and your teachers have achieved.”

Praising their “brilliant evening of theatre”, she singled out various elements, such as: their use of space and the “wonderful stage pictures” they created “including the opening scene on a motorbike”; the “effective use” of lighting and sound; their “fantastic” characterisation; their use of gesture, and their deployment of “varied vocal qualities to convey emotion with clarity”.

QE’s Othello was also lauded by the School’s Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement), Crispin Bonham-Carter, whose own background is as a well-known professional actor and theatre director.

“Our boys’ performance of Othello at the Arts Depot and again at School was a dark journey into the psychology of jealousy and revenge.  Patrick Bivol [Year 11] played Iago with a hands-in-pockets insouciance that made his lies and plotting deliciously painful to watch, while Sultan Khokhar [Year 13] gave the Moor [Othello himself] a calm nobility as he met his tragic downfall.

“The protagonists were brilliantly supported by one of the strongest ensembles we’ve seen in QE drama. Keiaron Joseph [Year 11] was particularly moving as the faithful Desdemona, and Augie Bickers [Year 10] set new standards in drunk acting as the reputationally challenged Cassio.

“This was a genuinely entertaining piece of theatre and is a great reflection of the progress that drama here has made in recent years. Our resident director, Gavin Molloy, treats the boys as professionals, and this cast should be extremely proud of themselves.”

In his talk to Year 10, Professor Mullan, Head of Department and The Lord Northcliffe Chair of Modern English Literature at UCL, asked the boys: “What links the following words: assassination, bloodstained, cold-blooded, deafening, fashionable, lonely, undress, vulnerable?”

The answer is, of course, Shakespeare, he said. “He invented nearly 2,000 words never seen before in the English language.”

Professor Mullan is a regular TV and radio broadcaster and a literary journalist; he writes on contemporary fiction for The Guardian and was a judge for the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

Mr Bonham-Carter said: “Professor Mullan was hugely entertaining and made a passionate case for further literature studies, noting, in passing, that his English Literature graduates were going on to the highest-earning jobs of all UCL’s departments…”

“Year 10 listened intently and asked many intelligent questions.”

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My thanks go to my colleagues and the boys for making our inaugural QE Shakespeare festival a resounding success, with Othello an undoubted highlight and Professor Mullan’s visit constituting a very satisfying conclusion. A perusal of our archives at QE Collections will reveal that the resurgence of drama in recent years picks up on an older tradition of offering high-quality productions here.

“In fact, our connections with the theatre go back to the time of Shakespeare himself, and even a little before that. Court favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who successfully petitioned Queen Elizabeth I for the School’s founding charter, granted in 1573, was an important patron of theatre in Tudor England, supporting his own troupe, Leicester’s Men, and the establishment of the Theatre in Shoreditch, forerunner of London’s famous Globe Theatre.

“As we approach our 450th anniversary next year, I am very proud to see current Elizabethans take up the mantle of delivering excellence in areas such as drama, oratory and debate.”

  • Next up for QE’s thespians is courtroom drama, with a production of Twelve Angry Men planned for the Summer Term.