Queensland Theatre breathes new life into Shakespeare’s Othello

AAR-Queensland-Theatre-Othello-photo-by-Paul-FurseQueensland Theatre approaches a Shakespearean classic from a uniquely Queenslander perspective, as Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein inject some Australian and Torres Strait Islander culture into Othello with their adaptation opening on Thursday 15 September 2022 in the Bille Brown Theatre.

Set between Cairns and the Torres Strait Islands throughout the 1940s, Jimi and Jason’s adaptation pays tribute to the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion and the 800 Torres Strait Islander men who volunteered to protect the northern tip of Australia during World War II.

“Many people know about the bombings of Darwin during the war, but not many know the story of Horn Island and the Strait which were bombed more than 500 times,” said Jason.

“This had a huge cultural impact on Queensland, particularly in the Far North, and it affected not only First Nations peoples but everyone across the state.”

“This era of change and danger makes a perfect platform from which to begin the tragic twists and turns of Othello,” said Jason.

Having recently performed in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and worked on the adaptation of Othello, Jimi will also take on the lead role of Othello. Emily Burton will play Desdemona, with Benjin Maza as Cassio, Tia-Shonté Southwood as Bianca, and Eugene Gilfedder as Brabantio. Matt McInally will take on the role of Roderigo, Sarah Ogden as Emilia and Kevin Hides as Lieutenant Colonel.

As audiences have come to expect from Jimi Ban, family plays an integral part in his development of the script with his brothers completing the company. Richard Bani plays Montano with Conwell and Gabriel Bani stepping in as both soldiers and dancers.

“My family and I have such a strong connection to this story and the setting My grandfather, the late Solomon Gela, and my great grandfather, the late Ephraim Bani Senior, both enlisted – as did all able bodied Torres Strait Islander men,” said Jim.

“Growing up on Thursday Island, my brothers and I had the privilege of hearing their war stories and I continue to carry all these men and women in my heart. I’m so proud and excited to step out to share their stories as part of Othello.”

Originally premiering at Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in 2021, Jason and Jimi’s adaptation of Othello will reach audiences in Brisbane for the first time, giving southern Queenslanders the opportunity to experience the power of Shakespeare and understand more of this state’s history

“This trilingual production (Kala Lagow Ya, Yumpla Tok and English) weaves two great storytelling traditions together into a powerful retelling of Othello,” said Artistic Director, Lee Lewis.

“Power, race, jealousy, colonialism and war all meet as the Elizabethan world is revisioned through the eyes of Jimi and Jason, two great Queensland artists.”

“Jimi Bani has one of the greatest theatrical voices in the country and hearing him speak Shakespeare’s text would be great enough, but watching him thread the power of own language into the performance is truly thrilling.”

“And the aeroplane dance! And the songs! This is an Othello the whole country needs to see. The energy in the Cairns audiences was electric. It was one of the first times I have felt an Australian audience truly own Shakespeare,” said Lewis.

Director: Jason Klarwein | Featuring: Jimi Bani, Richard Bani, Andrew Buchanan, Emily Burton, Eugene Gilfedder, Kevin Hides, Benjin Maza, Matt McInally, Sarah Ogden, Tia-Shonté Southwood, Conwell Bani, Gabriel Bani | Set Designer: Richard Roberts | Costume Designers: Simona Cosentini, Simone Tesorieri | Lighting Designer: Ben Hughes | Composer/Sound Designer: Brady Watkins | Fight Consultant: Nigel Poulton | Voice Coach: Megan Shorey | Stage Manager: Grant Gravener | Assistant Stage Manager: Katherine Crocker

Bille Brown Theatre – Queensland Theatre, 78 Montague Road, Brisbane
Season continues to 1 October 2022
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au

Image: Queensland Theatre presents Othello – photo by Paul Furse