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Desdemona, A Play About a Handkerchief
Hill Street Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Group: Tate & Liles Productions


James Gledhill

Desdemona's fate hinges on the whereabouts of the strawberry embroidered handkerchief given to her by her husband Othello. This adept work asks us how we would react to her if instead of being a tragically innocent victim she were actually culpable in the fate that will befall her.

Shakespeare's heroine is reimagined as a flighty, conceited, and sexually adventurous woman of easy virtue. She's been standing in (or should that be lying in) for the local prostitute, Bianca, and great amusement is extracted from the profanity of this convent educated high born lady. Completing the trio of female characters is the aspirational servant, the former scullery maid Amelia who's scheming but ultimately loyal.

In its consideration of the nature of female empowerment and sexuality, the play juxtaposes Desdemona's contempt for her privileged existence, and consequent thirst for new experiences, with Bianca's desire to leave such a life behind, seeking absolution before embarking on a what she hopes will be a loving and contented family life. The dynamic of relationships between different strata of society is interestingly explored.

The performances are exemplary and Desdemona in particular is played in a deliciously manipulative and haughty fashion, with great poise and an undertone of the naivety and insensitivity that will prove her eventual downfall. With its sparkling dialogue and incisive dry wit, this captivating production builds to a satisfyingly tense denouement.


1 August to 12 August.

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