Othello - Senior School Drama Production

August 07, 2014 at 7:36 AM

‘I am busy putting finishing touches to the costumes. The theme this year is military steampunk which requires costumes to have working mechanics that allude to the industrial era. Therefore, I am on the lookout for old broken bits of metal jewellery, broken clocks, cycle gears and cogs, compasses and watches, chains, belts and anything with a military feel to it. These will be de-constructed and taken apart so broken or unwanted is the key…..’
Ms Emma Bishop, Head of Drama

2014 marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth; the 16th century poet who is reputed to be the greatest playwright of all time. There are those who struggle with the notion of Shakespeare’s archaic English dialogue and his complex sentences but when stripped right back, Shakespearian plays are really quite simple; they're stories about human emotion, passion, ambition, jealousy, pride...emotions felt by men and women throughout the ages. Whether it be 1564 or 2014, the themes touch a chord and are as relevant today as the day that they were written.

The title, ‘Othello’, made it quite clear that this year’s College senior drama production was to be Shakespeare, but the request for unusual costume parts left no doubt that this was not ‘Shakespeare as we know it!’ Revised for a post-apocalyptic, steampunk world of techno-Victorian industrial design, the tragic tale of jealousy, racism and a misplaced lady’s handkerchief was given a unique twist. With an amazing set of interlocking scaffolding, awe-inspiring steampunk-styled costumes and fantastic performances from our students, this was an attention-grabbing show from beginning to end!

Often considered to be one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies and one of his finest works, Othello tells the tale of a Moorish general and his ambitious friend, Iago, as he struggles with self- doubt, jealously and betrayed trust, which eventually lead to his downfall. 

Cast in the titular role was the stalwart of recent stage productions, Lloyd David, striving to walk the fine line of noble general and jealous husband to Chloe Simpson’s Desdemona. Matching Lloyd for presence and significance was Ben Riedstra, cast in the much revered and reviled role of Iago, one of Shakespeare’s most complex villains. The role served as the audience's guide, as Iago shares his plot to drive Othello mad with jealousy while narrating the events of the play. As Iago, Ben must quickly switch from the clever schemer to the loyal soldier, sometimes multiples times in a scene – he did not miss a beat.Though Ben carried the weight of the script, both Lloyd and Ben deserve praise for their handling of the language through multiple, long monologues.

Becky Lane took the role of Iago’s wife, Emilia whose one dishonest act towards Desdemona – stealing her special handkerchief – turns out to have devastating consequences. It is the loss of the handkerchief that convinces Othello that Desdemona is guilty of infidelity, leading to a chain reaction in which first Desdemona, then Emilia and Othello lose their lives. Emilia, however, dies proud that she has unmasked Iago’s scheming and has set the record straight so that Desdemona’s name is cleared.

On this, the anniversary of his birth, Shakespeare may have been initially astonished at Saint Kentigern’s chosen setting  for his play but he would have been well pleased with the fine cast of players assembled and undoubtedly proud of the outcome. In an inventive and engaging take on the ‘green-eyed monster,’ one of his greatest works was delivered true to word, with dynamic staging, passion and professionalism.


Originally coined in the 1980s, the term ‘steampunk’ refers to a genre of science-fiction literature that portrays the future the way people of the Victorian era would have envisioned it. The ‘steampunk’ genre is both future and past at once, rendering it ‘timeless.’

Taking place in the past in an alternate timeline in which many modern technologies exist but are powered by steam, futuristic gadgets are mainstays of the genre. Its plots typically include societal breakdowns and the formation of anarchistic or totalitarian governments.

The term ‘steampunk’ has also come to include styles of clothing, design and architecture, which often feature leather, brass and wooden elements. Head of Drama and show director, Ms Emma Bishop had a clear vision of how the costumes would look for this production.  There was no ‘off the shelf’ purchase and she is thankful to former teacher, Mrs Rebecca O’Neil and parents, Mrs Rosie Lane, Mrs Brenda Devlin and Mrs Maureen Hayward  for their unwavering support in preparing the costumes with their detailing.

Our thanks also to Mr Glen Mortensen  for all technical aspects, Mrs Maia Freeman for leading the hair and makeup team, Ms Cathy Rood and Mr Chris Ashforth for securing the props, Mr Terry Haffern for leading the backstage crew and Mr Ian Thomas in the role of stage manager.

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