Ben Thomas as Othello

Ben Thomas as Othello

In 1997, Britain's leading black theatre company, Talawa, staged Shakespeare's Othello at The Drill Hall, a small fringe venue in London. Othello tells the story of a black general in the Venetian army, successful, articulate and popular, who elopes with the daughter of a white aristocrat. However well respected Othello has become, her father would not countenance her marrying a moor. One of the general's own company then proceeds to poison Othello's mind against his wife until he becomes convinced that she has been unfaithful to him.

Talawa's production with Ben Thomas as Othello, Sam Adams as Emilia and Dominic Letts as Iago, used modern dress and the publicity for the performance drew a comparison between attitudes to moors in 17th century Europe and attitudes to mixed race couples in the 20th century. A reference to the trial of OJ Simpson was cited as evidence that some in society still disapprove of a couple where the man is black and the woman white.