As Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 enters its final months, the Belgrade Theatre will present the world premiere of Nothello, written and devised by Mojisola Adebayo, William Shakespeare and Justine Themen.
Inspired by interviews with mixed heritage couples and individuals who live locally, and featuring a mixed heritage community chorus from across the city, Nothello will play at the Belgrade from Sat 7 – Sat 21 May, and will be the final production of the Belgrade’s City of Culture programme.
Is the only part Shakespeare wrote for a black man actually just, well… a bit rubbish? Isn’t Othello responsible for setting up negative stereotypes about black men? Isn’t Desdemona a bit shallow? And don’t all the best lines go to Iago anyway?
Welcome to Nothello, an absurdist, anarchic, insightful and witty new play from the Belgrade Theatre. Join us on an increasingly meta deep-dive into Shakespeare’s Othello, from the perspective of an unborn child, exploring the play’s legacy and what it means to be of mixed-heritage.
Maybe we can imagine a version of Othello for today, where it’s not a tragedy anymore but a romance. Where Othello and Desdemona can start all over again, full of love and possibility – full of hope and wonder.
The Belgrade Theatre are looking for community members to help devise and participate in Nothello. They are searching for a mixed race youth group to assist the director in devising the piece, a mixed race chorus to write and perform songs, and interracial couples who will perform as dancers in the show. More information on this call out is available here.
Justine Themen is a Theatre Director and Change Maker, committed to placing an integrated approach to artistic excellence and creative engagement at the beating heart of contemporary theatre. She is outgoing Deputy Artistic Director of the Belgrade Theatre and Co-Artistic Director for its City of Culture 2021 programme, and has recently been appointed as one of the first Leadership Associates at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Justine played a key role in the winning of the City of Culture title for Coventry, and directed Coventry Moves, its opening event, the first large-scale outdoor event in the UK as the country emerged from the second wave of the global pandemic.
Her work around diversity, community engagement and new work has driven the agenda for the Belgrade Theatre’s organisational change programme, ‘Keys’, and its new vision for a regional theatre for all; as well as influencing Coventry City of Culture’s co-created approach to programming.
Justine Themen said: “The mixed heritage population is the fastest-growing ethnic group in the UK, and interracial relationships are on the rise – as is expected to be evidenced by the result of the 2021 census, due out late spring. I’m excited that in the final show of our City of Culture year, we can challenge the impossibility of love across the divide. Instead, moving forward from a year of extraordinary and diverse storytelling, we can celebrate with our city and our audiences how we can be enriched by difference, rather than challenged by it.”
Mojisola Adebayo said: “I am incredibly excited to be working on this new production with Justine Themen and people from across Coventry – a city that has so much to teach the rest of the country about relationships between people of African, Caribbean, Asian and European descent, from two-tone to this new play for today”.
A key partner of Coventry UK City of Culture, the Belgrade Theatre’s 2021 programme has been led by three artists from diverse backgrounds, under the role of Co-Artistic Directors, alongside members of the local community. Corey Campbell, Balisha Karra and Justine Themen are developing a new vision and way of working for a 21st Century Theatre, bringing with them a unique perspective that celebrates Coventry’s diversity and drives positive change.
Nothello is the final production in the Belgrade Theatre’s programme of work for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021. More information can be found here.