Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre was launched in 2010 to create “the perfect summer-time experience with drama and carefree picnics mingling to perfection. Above all we wanted audiences to enjoy themselves.” And that they did.
I travelled from Manchester to see Othello and audience members who aren’t from Chester, never fear as the location of the open air theatre is almost impossible not to find. I took a companion with me who had never experienced Shakespeare before and the look on her face after the performance itself told me everything I needed to see: she loved it.
Shakespeare’s Othello is a thriller surrounded by an epic battle of wills for the sake of love and honour and is often described as the finest tragedy in the English language. Simon Coombs takes on the eponymous character Othello and gives a truly mighty performance that provokes many horror struck faces in the penultimate scene of the play.
His portrayal is both majestic and tragic. Graham O’Mara steals the show as Iago, the way his character bounces from a true and honest friend (through the eyes of Othello) to a bitter and brutal villain. The fluency of it is just right as even much younger audience members were able to follow without difficulty.
I found myself particularly impressed with actors Samuel Collings and Leon Scott who portrayed characters Cassio and Roderigo. Leon Scott’s character Roderigo is comical as well as hopeless which triggered both laughter and sympathy towards his innocent and naive character. You note his effort even when he wasn’t the point of focus within the scene, often shaking his head helplessly or gazing at the beautiful Desdemona (played perfectly by Rebecca Smith-Williams) his character never wavered once.
Samuel Collings has the unique ability to command attention in whatever scene he is in. He plays the completely innocent Cassio whose reputation is tainted by Iago’s cruel influence.
Amongst the many flawless performances one element in particular stole the show for me: the costumes. You feel sorry for the actors within the performance as their authentic costumes must have been such a burden to wear under the afternoon sun, no matter how beautiful they are to look at.
The team go the extra mile by offering out sun cream and parasols to audience members to ensure that they have the most enjoyable and comfortable experience possible. I found the whole thing quite surreal. Many people were sat or laying on blankets; sunbathing and spectating. I was sat in a deck chair bare foot, glass in hand whilst Iago is scheming and twisting Roderigo’s mind. The odd situation in which we are watching does not interrupt or distract the performance but makes me feel strangely comfortable.
Though Othello may not be the most appropriate play for a child to see, I spotted a few children who were watching quite attentively throughout the first half though were taken out before the second half.
Thanks to the Grosvenor Park team for such a magical day. It’s just such a shame I didn’t have a chance to see the other two shows.
Though I can say with certainty that I will be there next year, as this Othello is fautless.