Following its current run in Stratford, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Othello will transfer to the West End, where it will launch the new Trafalgar Studios, a 350-seat space carved, as previously tipped (See The Goss, 18 Mar 2004), from the existing 650-seat Whitehall Theatre.

The new production, which marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s tragedy, opened on 18 February (previews from 12 February) at Stratford’s Swan Theatre, where it finishes its straight run tomorrow night (3 April). It will then have a limited season at Trafalgar Studios from 3 June 2004 (previews from 26 May).

Directed by Gregory Doran, whose production of All’s Well That Ends Well is currently playing at the West End’s Gielgud Theatre, Othello sees two South African actors, one black and one white, playing the leads of Othello and Iago for the first time in the UK (See News, 18 Feb 2004).

Sello Maake ka Ncube (Othello) and Antony Sher (Iago) last worked together, also with Doran, in a 1995 production of Titus Andronicus at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa. Co-starring as Desdemona is Lisa Dillon, who won both the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Newcomer and the Ian Charleson Award for The Master Builder (See News, 3 Feb & 29 Mar 2004).

The Othello cast also features Charles Abomeli, Barry Aird, Justin Avoth, Ken Bones, Peter Bramhill, Vincent Brimble, Edward Clayton, Jonathan Duff, Mark Lockyer, Paul O’Mahony, Clifford Rose, Nathalie Armin, Amanda Harris and Viss Elliott. Stephen Brimson Lewis designs, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Martin Slavin. Prior to its London season, the production is embarks on a five-week tour of Japan.

Last summer, owner the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) closed the Whitehall indefinitely, laying off six staff in the process (See News, 26 Jun 2003). In the autumn, the transfer of Rat Pack Confidential seemed to signal a renewed lease of life, but the show closed in November after less than two months (See News, 30 Oct 2003). The Whitehall has been dark ever since.

Planning permission has been approved to refashion the theatre’s interior to create the two new studio spaces, the other being approximately 100 seats. The idea is similar to the National’s 2002 Transformation season in the Lyttelton Theatre and temporary Loft space (See News, 18 Mar 2002). More extensive details of ATG’s plans for the Trafalgar Studios are expected shortly.

NOTE: Booking for the London season of Othello opens 8 April 2004.

- by Terri Paddock