Phil Willmott’s new interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic thriller of jealousy, illicit passion and racial tension is set during the British Raj and commemorates the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (also known as the Amritsar massacre).
One of the most infamous and shameful incidents of Britain’s colonial rule of India, this atrocity saw British & Indian officers fire into a gathering of unarmed local protesters. The resulting international and local condemnation was a major factor in the ensuing deterioration of British authority in India leading to the eventual collapse of the Raj.
The British had recently instigated a disastrous scheme whereby selected Indian soldiers were to be promoted into higher officer ranks in the British Army. These Indian cadets were sent to study in Great Britain at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in anticipation of promotion to King's Commissioned Officers, with full authority over British troops.
However, far from home, at Sandhurst these Indian recruits were pitted against upper-class Englishmen and mercilessly bullied in conditions alien to their upbringing and experience. Of the first batch of 25 cadets admitted ten failed to meet the requisite standard, two died, two resigned, and one was deprived of his commission.
This adaptation presumes that English Army Chaplain, Cassio, and the Indian Officer recruit, Othello, survived their Sandhurst training together, becoming friends, during which time they first met Desdemona.
Upon graduation Othello has been fast tracked to the rank of General in an Indian outpost, now under the jurisdiction of Desdemona’s father, The Duke. She and Othello secretly marry and he sends for his old friend, Cassio to be his Lieutenant.
Iago, Othello’s sociopathic English Orderly (a soldier assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant), is prevented from raising any higher in the army by his lower-class background and is deeply resentful of Othello.
With the reluctant participation of his newly arrived wife, Emilia, Iago plots the destruction of the Indian General, who is already isolated and conflicted by his role collaborating in and enforcing the British occupancy of his native land.
Carlotta De Gregori
Justin Williams & Jonny Rust
Assistant and Movement Director