1 December 2023

Desdemona (Emilie Lehuraux) and Othello (Adama Diop), November 12, 2022, in

Act V of Shakespeare’s tragedy: Othello strangles Desdemona. Mass is said and Iago can smile. The Moor, his sworn enemy, has just joined the camp of evil. Reluctantly, all reason annihilated, devoured by jealousy, deaf to the pleas of his victim and innocent wife, Othello conforms, in the end, to the image that the racist notables of the Venetian Republic had of him: he is the stranger, therefore the danger. He is the Black, therefore the savage. This tragedy of a destiny written in advance is led by a memorable trio of actors: Adama Diop as Othello, Nicolas Bouchaud as Iago and Emilie Lehuraux as Desdemona.

Can we escape the assignments brandished by the norm when we embody a difference that threatens this norm? The question agitates our Western societies, but the show proposed at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe reminds us that in 1603 Shakespeare had made it the lever of a love, social and political drama. We are still the contemporaries of the characters of the Elizabethan, similar in fear, equal in abjection.

The winks of the director Jean-François Sivadier to a culture of the XXIe century bridge the ages. Pop songs from the group Queen sung by the performers and the appearance on Iago’s face of the grin of the Joker (antihero of the film Batman) correlate the subject to the present and connect this popular, exciting and intelligent show to a youth who would be wrong to prefer a cinema outing to it.

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Reminder of the facts: Othello, general of the Republic of Venice, is a brave soldier promoted for his feats of arms by his superiors but hated by the envious, who tolerate him in their ranks until they crush him body and soul. A former slave born in distant lands, he is black. His courageous reputation frees him – he believes – from rules and laws. He marries Desdemona in secret. And denies Iago a promotion he grants to Cassio (Stephen Butel). Double offense. His punishment will be equal to the outrage.

Reverse Blackface

Hated by Desdemona’s father, Brabantio (Cyril Bothorel), who swallows his rage by folding the tails of his bathrobe over his calves in a parody sequence worthy of a vaudeville by Feydeau, Othello becomes the toy of diabolical manipulation. The one hatched by the cunning Iago, to whom are addressed (it’s no coincidence) the first lines of the show: ” Shut up ! », yells his straw man, Roderigo (Gulliver Hecq). The invocation remains a dead letter. Too bad, because Iago’s word is the only weapon he has. To destroy Desdemona’s husband, this second-rate soldier resorts only to the verb. But what a verb!

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