Feuilleton Highlights in English

»Othello« at the Berliner Ensemble

© Berliner Ensemble, Katrin Ribbe

A missed opportunity

If you’re seeking a break from the mess in Syria you might want to treat yourself to the production of Shakespeare’s »Othello«. 

Just don’t expect to be enlightened by it. It is a break for sure, but a painful and exhausting one. This interpretation of »Othello« fails to deliver on the intensity, depth and abyss the original work is admired for, but above all it doesn’t accomplish a modern outlook of this classical play. It is filled with vulgar diction, broken down to physical betrayal and surrounded by a pornographic definition of sexuality. 

Conservatives will be outraged, liberals will yawn out of boredom and us sane people in the middle are left puzzled without any kind of deeper meaning to grasp. Because in an age where monogamy is overrated what does Othello‘s jealousy about Desdemona supposedly cheating on him really mean?

Why is it so difficult to get to a different layer of this tragedy that Desdemona is to Othello what a true confidante is – much more than a lover or actually a hooker in the interpretation of this particular production – and therefore Othello views any kind of betrayal as an emotional one. An emotional pain that hurts much more than his pride and that is the modern connection to our own world at present – with relations and communication on a mind-blowing shallow level who is still out there you can consider trustworthy? Who is still open and honest enough to not put difficult issues and conversations under the rug? 

Here again the Berliner Ensemble had an amazing opportunity to let us look into the mirror through their particular interpretation, but all they did was to enjoy their own faces in the mirror. 

What I mean by that is if you’re focusing a stage production on a lot of nakedness, vulgar language and sex you can make the case that our modern time has in its hectic approach forgotten how to communicate – on all levels of life including and kind of most importantly on real intimacy. 

But to deliver this to an audience you‘d actually have to go through the hard work of presenting what this kind of shallowness does to our societies and how we inflict these kind of behaviors on one another. It is possible to make that case by revealing how Jago succeeds in nurturing his own envy and hatred into Othello and that he was only able to manipulate him because Othello was receptive to it out of his fear that he’s only needed to score victories and nothing else. 

But abridging too much of the original play, performing without a break and presenting shallowness just as that without any deeper connotation this interpretation of Shakespeare‘s »Othello« remains superficial. It would have helped of course if there were any kind of chemistry between the actors on stage. 

So by all means go see this production at the Berliner Ensemble and it will take your mind of Syria, but it won’t leave you moved – because real emotions are lacking.

 

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