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Royal Shakespeare Company’s first black Iago ready for debut

READY FOR DEBUT: Actor Lucian Msamati

GAME OF Thrones actor Lucian Msamati will take on the revered role of Iago in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) production of Othello next month.

It is the first time the company has cast a black actor in the role, which is usually interpreted as being a deeply malignant racist.

But RSC’s artistic director Gregory Doran said stressed that while it may be a "completely crazy" idea, "I think it's worth pursuing because in the end, as you watch it, you just watch two really, really good actors doing it and that is the major issue".

He added: "I know when I was watching it [in workshop] with a really good white Iago opposite Hugh I was thinking right, yes, I've seen this before terrific. But with Lucian, every line became freshly minted and it challenged the whole play in a way I found completely revelatory.”

Holby City star Hugh Quarshie will take on the lead role of Othello in Iqbal Khan’s adaptation of the Shakespeare’s classic at the Royal Shakespeare theatre, located in the famous writer’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon from June 4.

Joining them in the role of Desdemona - Othello’s wife - is Joanna Vanderham, who makes her RSC debut. Joanna is best known for playing the lead character of Denise Lovett in BBC’s The Paradise.

The cast for Othello also includes: Nadia Albina (Duke of Venice); David Ajao (Montano); Scarlett Brookes (Bianca); James Corrigan (Roderigo); Ayesha Dharker (Emilia); Eva Feiler (Citizen of Venice); Owen Findlay (Gentleman of Cyprus); Jacob Fortune-Lloyd (Cassio); Guy Hughes (Soldier); Rina Mahoney (Citizen of Venice); Ken Nwosu (Gentleman of Cyprus); Brian Protheroe (Brabantio); Jay Saighal (Gentleman of Cyprus) and Tim Samuels (Lodovico).

Othello will be broadcast worldwide at ‘Live from Stratford-upon-Avon’ on August 26, 2015, which marks a new collaboration between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Picturehouse Cinemas. Together they screen productions live from Shakespeare's hometown.

The production of Othello forms part of a 'Venice' season at the RSC, which also includes Polly Findlay directing The Merchant of Venice, which opens at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on May 14.

Makram J Khoury, one of the most celebrated actors in Israel, makes his RSC debut to play Shylock in Findlay's production.

The Palestinian-Israeli actor has worked on stage and screen for over 50 years; he was awarded the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival’s Achievement Award and the Israel Prize for acting, regarded as the state’s highest honour.

Joining Makram, and also making her RSC debut in the role of Portia, is Patsy Ferran. Winner of Most Promising Newcomer at this year’s Critics’ Circle Awards, Patsy is currently playing Jim Hawkins in the National Theatre’s production of Treasure Island, also directed by Polly Findlay. Her other credits include Blithe Spirit (Gielgud Theatre West End) and The Angry Brigade (Paines Plough).

“Everyone at the Royal Shakespeare Company, from actors to technicians, milliners to musicians, plays a part in creating the world you see on stage. Our work begins its life at our Stratford workshops and theatres and we share it with audiences across the world through our touring, residencies and online activity. So, wherever you experience the RSC, you experience work that is made in Shakespeare’s home town,” a spokesperson for the RSC said.

“Shakespeare has been performed and celebrated in Stratford for centuries and the RSC has trained generations of the very best theatre makers since the Company was founded in 1961. We pioneer contemporary approaches to Shakespeare’s plays, as well as staging the work of those who inspired him and the work of today’s playwrights.”

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OTHELLO:
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Iqbal Khan

Royal Shakespeare Theatre: 4 June – 28 August 2015
Press night: Thursday 11 June, 7pm
Live from Stratford-upon-Avon: Wednesday 26 August 2015

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE:
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Polly Findlay

Royal Shakespeare Theatre: 14 May – 2 September 2015
Press night: Thursday 21 May, 7pm
Live from Stratford-upon-Avon: Wednesday 22 July 2015

To book tickets call 0844 800 1110 or online at www.rsc.org.uk

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