Stratford College brings gender-swapped Othello to the stage - The Stratford Observer

Stratford College brings gender-swapped Othello to the stage

ACTING students at Stratford College are bringing one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies to the stage – but with a major twist.

The second year acting students will be performing in Othello, one of the bard’s much-loved tragedies.

But in a unique spin, the production will be set in a women’s prison and will be completely gender swapped. This means the traditionally male roles will be played as and by females and the same for the traditionally female roles.

And not only is the setting of a women’s prison a new concept for this play, but the role of Othello has also been very rarely played by a female.

In the early 19th century, there were a handful of actresses who took up the role and in 2015 Smooth Faced Gentleman played the production with an all-female cast.

However, in these previous productions the role of Othello was played by a female as a man. It was only as recently as 2018, that Golda Rosheuvel starred as Othello at the Liverpool Everyman as a woman.

The college’s completely gender-swapped version however is playing Othello for the first time as a heterosexual woman, falling in love with a male Desdamona – in this case, Desdamono.

The students are very excited to be bringing this show to life.

Shania Hayles, who is performing the title role, is excited to be taking on this mantle.

She said: “I feel very honoured to be telling this incredible love story. The tragedy and downfall of this character through manipulation is heartbreaking and I feel so privileged to be playing as a female – it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

To assist with creating this show, students were visited by actors from the RSC – Tyreke Leslie and Eloise Secker – who led a workshop on understanding and delivering Shakespeare’s text.


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