Othello/Worcester Repertory Company

DIRECTOR Ben Humphrey is becoming a bit like the late Alfred Hitchcock… insisting he gets a cameo role in his own productions.

All right, he’s also the First Senator. But we all know that it’s the clown part that really appeals, probably because he can make rude noises with a car horn.

But the gag that really worked on the first night was when the member of the audience asked him to make a serpent out of a balloon. Ah, the irony… because the rest of us knew that the only real snake in the room was actually Iago, played with a frightening and demonic intensity by Jamie Kwasnik.

Kwasnik first simmers then bubbles, an overflowing cauldron of evil and studied malice. This was a brilliant and sustained performance, the very personification of a man on a mission to destroy someone.

And Othello is that person, his demolition required because Iago has been overlooked for a promotion. Wesley Charles as the Moor also takes his time to turn a spark of jealousy into a full-scale conflagration, but once the fire gets going, not even all the water in the Venice canals can dampen the flames.

Cassio (Wilf Williams) meanwhile spectacularly fails to cotton on to what’s afoot, and it’s only in the final stages of the plot that he realises Iago is not exactly Mother Theresa in a doublet and hose.

Genevieve Lowe ramps up the misery as a delicately demure Desdemona, dying any number of virtual deaths before the real thing happens courtesy of her husband, who by now is plainly off his rocker.

And Jonathan Darby as worried father Brabantio can probably find little solace in the fact that he just knew all along that it would end in tears, tragically too late to say I told you so.

Humphrey’s production thankfully sometimes plays fast and loose with the Shakespeare original, but it’s all the better for that. Othello runs until Saturday (October 21).

John Phillpott