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Covid 19 Pandemic Statement

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ettAdmin

Following the government advice about COVID-19, we have taken the difficult but necessary decision to postpone our spring shows. While we regret not being able to share these amazing stories with audiences, health and safety absolutely comes first. We are working very hard to explore how these productions can have a life at some point in the future and make sure that the audiences of our valued regional partners get to see the brilliant work that had to be cut short too soon.

In the immediate future we are committing to making and sharing more digital work you can enjoy from your homes. Check out our social media for more info, or visit Watch & Listen to browse our digital creative work.

Alongside this, we will continue to develop and review the plans for our future programme of work, in order that we will, once again, be able to tour high quality productions to audiences across the country.

We realise these are unprecedented times and we are doing our best to support the artists and freelancers who are so reliant on us, and organisations like us, and for whom the future feels very uncertain. We will also continue to engage with the audiences and communities whose commitment and loyalty over the years has been incredible to behold. Without you all, we are nothing.

We hope everyone is keeping safe and well. Please feel free to reach out with any questions, ideas or feedback by visiting Connect with Us.

Richard Twyman, Sophie Scull and Lizzie Vogler

First Look: Testmatch

Posted on: March 18th, 2020 by ettAdmin

Join the cast of Testmatch as they visit Lord’s Cricket Ground and learn about cricket from the professionals… all for the UK Premiere of Kate Attwell’s exciting new play exploring power, history, colonialism, gender and sexuality through the lens of women’s cricket.

Check out the gallery for a first look into the rehearsal process. Want to know more about the show? Find out more here.

Who is… Tonderai Munyevu

Posted on: March 1st, 2020 by ettAdmin

Mugabe, My Dad and Me is written and performed by Tonderai Munyevu. Tonderai is an actor, writer and director for theatre, screen and radio. Born in Zimbabwe and raised in London. As well as comedy and drama he has also written prose (fiction and non-fiction) including the short stories Bullets (Black and Gay In The UK Anthology, Team Angelica Publishers) and A Dispatch From Zimbabwe: The Visiting Hours for The Johannesburg Book Of Reviews.

He is a founding member and co-artistic director of the international Shakespearean troupe Two Gents Productions renowned for their mix of new writing and classical adaptations including the acclaimed Two Gentlemen of Verona, Kupenga Kwa Hamlet, Magesti and The Importance of Being Earnest. His latest play Mugabe, My Dad and Me was shortlisted for The Alfred Fagon Award 2019 and will premiere at York Theatre Royal in a collaboration with English Touring Theatre.

Shelley Maxwell wins Best Choreographer

Posted on: October 28th, 2019 by ettAdmin

Huge congratulations to the wonderful Shelley Maxwell who has won Best Choreographer at the Black British Theatre Awards for her outstanding work on Equus, our co-production with Theatre Royal Stratford East, directed by Ned Bennett.

We love working with Shelley and she has done incredible work on our productions of Cougar, Dealing with Clair, A Streetcar Named Desire and Rules for Living.

Equus wins UK Theatre Award

Posted on: October 27th, 2019 by ettAdmin

We had a ball partying with our friends at the UK Theatre Awards on Sunday, and we’re absolutely thrilled that Equus , our co-production with Theatre Royal Stratford East, directed by Ned Bennett, won the 2019 UK Theatre Award for Best Play Revival! A huge thank you to the phenomenal team who worked on the show, our co-producers Theatre Royal Stratford East, and all of t he venues on tour who worked with us to share this ground breaking production across the UK and in London’s West End.

Frank Strang / Horse Robert Fitch
Harry Dalton / Nurse / Horse Keith Gilmore
Alan Strang Ethan Kai
Dora Strang / Horse Syreeta Kumar
Hesther Salomon / Horse Ruth Lass
Jill Mason / Horse Norah Lopez Holden
Young Horseman / Nugget Ira Mandela Siobhan
Martin Dysart Zubin Varla

Creative Team
Director Ned Bennett
Designer Georgia Lowe
Lighting Designer Jessica Hung Han Yun
Composer and Sound Designer Giles Thomas
Movement Director Shelley Maxwell
Assistant Director Denzel Westley-Sanderson
Casting Director Anne McNulty CDG
Casting Associate Lucy Casson
Costume Supervisor Natasha Prynne
Voice Coach Rebecca Cuthbertson

ETT announce partnership with Digital Theatre

Posted on: July 18th, 2019 by ettAdmin

ETT in partnership with Digital Theatre have created a filmed version of Othello for Digital Theatre Plus – the award-winning education arm of Digital Theatre. The production, directed by our Artistic Director Richard Twyman, was filmed live at Warwick Arts Centre during its critically-acclaimed UK tour this autumn and is now available on Digital Theatre Plus for an audience of over 3 million students.

“We’re delighted to announce a new partnership with Digital Theatre on the digital capture of our production of Othello. Othello is one of Shakespeare’s most contemporary and immediate plays and is widely studied in the UK and internationally. We’re thrilled that this initiative will give students and institutions around t he world access to this production, after the completion of its UK tour, as well as additional resources we have built around the production.”

Jane Claire receives OBE for services to Drama

Posted on: January 18th, 2019 by ettAdmin

We are thrilled that Jane Claire has received an OBE for services to Drama! The award follows her 2017 UK Theatre Award for Theatre Employee of the Year.

Jane has spent over forty years working in the theatre. After a long and varied career in stage management working in regional, fringe and West End theatres she moved into producing. Following nine years with the highly regarded touring company Shared Experience, where she was responsible for numerous national and international tours, she became Executive Producer of English Touring Theatre. Jane was Executive Producer at ETT for twelve years, producing more than 45 productions touring throughout the UK. She continues her work at ET T as Producer of the ETT Forge scheme. She is the Chair of Flute Theatre and also sits on the boards of Derby Theatre and Joe Public.

Jane said ‘I am thrilled to receive such an unexpected and prestigious award from the Queen. Having worked ‘behind the scenes’ for so many years the recognition is very special and I share it with all the many talented people I’ve had the huge pleasure to work with over the last 45 years.’

ETT Artistic Director Richard Twyman said ‘I am delighted that Jane’s commitment to theatre and touring has been recognised in this way. Jane’s work for ETT has been absolutely invaluable and she continues to be a tremendous source of wisdom for us and so many others!’

Olivia Highland joins ETT board of trustees

Posted on: August 5th, 2017 by ettAdmin

We are delighted to announce that Olivia Highland has joined ETT’s Board of trustees.

Olivia joined The Old Vic in 2011, working up from intern to Head of Corporate Development within four and a half years. The Old Vic is one of the only theatres in London of such size, scale and international reputation not to receive any regular government subsidy. Highland leads the corporate fundraising team and is responsible for establishing the corporate fundraising strategy; stewarding partner relationships with businesses and brands across multiple sectors, including the theatre’s two longest, highest value, and award winning sponsorships; and securing new business to substantially contribute to the organisation’s overall £3.6 million annual fundraising target. As a Trustee of ETT, Highland combines her passion for theatre, her fundraising expertise and h er interest in organisational management and business development.

Othello and the Orient Isle

Posted on: February 28th, 2017 by ettAdmin

Exile and migration. Toxic masculinity. Xenophobia and racism. Islamophobia. All played out in a geopolitical arena that pits West against an East defined by the Muslim lands of North Africa and the Middle East. We are only too aware that these are just some of the issues driving our current global predicament. But they equally describe much of the dramatic action of Othello, a play written over 400 years ago, but speaking to us today as urgently and viscerally as ever before. At its heart is a character that we still do not understand. Who is this Othello, the Moor of Venice? At the end of Act 4, Iago suggests that Othello is about to go ‘into Mauretania and taketh away with him the fair Desdemona’. Iago is playing on the fear that Othello, ‘the Moor’, will take his wife to Mauretania, beyond the reach of the Christian communities of Venice and Cyprus. Near the beginning of the play Roderigo calls him ‘an extravagant and wheeling stranger | Of here and everywhere’ who has traversed North Africa and the Mediterranean from Morocco to Venice, Cyprus and Aleppo. It is fears about this enigmatic figure, a convert from Islam to Christianity, of questionable faith and cosmopolitan ease, that drive the play’s action, not his race. It is these fears that have once again resurfaced so tragically as central to our contemporary situation.

Iago’s suggestions that Othello will take Desdemona into Mauretania allows us one way into understanding the character as Shakespeare imagined him. However, there is no straightforward connection between Othello’s ethnic identity as a ‘Moor’ and his geographical homeland of Mauretania. In classical times and Shakespeare’s day Mauretania referred to the Mediterranean coast of Morocco (distinct from the modern-day Islamic Republic of Mauritania, today situated to the south of Morocco). For an Elizabethan audience, the term ‘Moor’ evoked a whole series of complicated, and often contradictory assumptions and prejudices, which Shakespeare was clearly aiming to exploit in his decision to put Othello on the stage around 1601, just before Queen Elizabeth I’s death.

For Shakespeare, the term ‘Moor’ carried both religious and what we would today call ‘racial’ associations, although ‘race’ and certainly ‘racism’ was not a term used as we understand it in Tudor times. ‘Moor’ derived from the Greek, and referred to an inhabitant of Mauretania, but was also associated with ‘dark’ or ‘dim’, and became ‘Maurus’ in Latin, which throughout the Middle Ages took on the more ethnographic sense of black. The presence of Muslims believed to originate from Mauretania that entered Portugal and Spain also led to the term being used as a synonym for Muslim. The confusion over what Shakespeare meant when he referred to Moors emerges from a conflation of the term referring to black people and Muslims. John Pory, in his translation of Leo Africanus’ History and Description of Africa (1600), often believed to be one of the sources for Othello, claims that Moors ‘are of two kinds, namely white or tawny Moors, and Negroes or black Moors’. Significantly, whilst both Othello and Aaron (in Titus Andronicus) refer to their dark skin colour, the Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice is labelled as ‘a tawny Moor’.
As a result, although a Moor was invariably a Muslim, he was not necessarily black. It is this ambiguity that Shakespeare exploits in his portrayal of both Othello’s ethnic and religious origins. Othello tells Iago ‘I am black’ and Roderigo denigrates Othello’s skin colour in the play’s early scenes, but these slurs quickly fall away, and in the second half of the play it is Desdemona who takes on the burden of her reputation being ‘blackened’. Similarly, when Othello recounts how he entertained Brabantio with tales of his past life, he speaks:

Of hair-breadth scapes i’th’ imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels’ history.

This speech is crucial to how we understand Othello’s origins. He claims to have been captured ‘by the insolent foe’, to have been sold into slavery and then to have experienced some form of ‘redemption’. Intriguingly for the Elizabethans ‘redemption’ meant both ‘delivered from sin’ and ‘freed from slavery’: Othello is bought, set free and offered salvation through the sacrament of baptism to become the first Christian Moor on the Elizabethan stage. This would suggest that the ‘insolent foe’ is the Turk who captured and sold Othello as a galley slave before Christians rescued and converted him. What he does not say is if he was born a Muslim, or a pagan, like many other Berbers in sixteenth-century Mauretania, sworn enemies of that other complex ethnic group that haunts the play from beginning to end, ‘the general enemy Ottoman’, or Turkish Empire. The audience is presented with a character who moves with suspicious ease from one religion to another. What is the probability, Shakespeare seems to ask, that having turned away from one religion, Othello might just as easily ‘turn Turk’ and embrace another?

The reasons for such ambiguity surrounding Othello’s origins can be partly explained by the extensive and amicable relations that were established between Elizabethan England and the kingdom of Morocco. By the late 1580s, Protestant England regarded Spanish Catholicism, rather than Ottoman or North African Islam, as its biggest religious and political threat. Following the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, Queen Elizabeth established diplomatic relations with the Moroccan ruler Mulay Ahmad-al Mansur. In January 1589 the Moroccan ambassador Marshok Reiz [real name Ahmad Bilqasim] arrived in London and was greeted by merchants of the Barbary Company. He proposed ‘a sound and perfect league of amity’, a military commercial alliance with Elizabeth, whereby Morocco received English military support in exchange for Moroccan goods. Both countries were eager to resist the power of Philip II’s Spain. The English also established close commercial and diplomatic alliances with the Ottoman Empire of Sultan Murad III, leading to the creation of the Turkey Company in 1581 which, over time, would become known as the Levant Company. Some of its members even converted to Islam (many under duress, but others willingly) in a process of ‘turning Turk’ that resonates so powerfully throughout Othello. They included Samson Rowlie, an English merchant from Great Yarmouth who in 1577 was captured by Turkish pirates off Algiers, castrated and given the name ‘Hassan Aga’. He rose to become chief eunuch and treasurer of Algiers as well as one of the most trusted advisers to its Ottoman governor, an Englishman that had successfully ‘turned Turk’, much to the consternation of the English authorities, but the fascination of London’s theatre audience: of more than sixty plays featuring Turks, Moors and Persians performed in London’s public theatres between 1576 and 1603, at least forty were staged between 1588 and 1599. Moors and Turks were all the rage, and Shakespeare quickly followed fashion.

Within months of Marshok Reiz’s visit Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus, with its depiction of Aaron the Moor, the villainous but charismatic agent of most of the play’s tragic action. Just five years later, another Moroccan delegation to England was proposed, and again Shakespeare responded; the Prince of Morocco in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is a remarkably sympathetic figure, who vies for Portia’s hand in marriage. That Portia dismisses him with the line ‘Let all of his complexion choose me so’ is further testimony towards the studied ambivalence with which the Moor was perceived in Elizabethan drama.

Anglo-Moroccan relations came to a head in the summer of 1600, when Abd al-Wahid bin Masoud bin Muhammad al-Annuri arrived in London and presented his diplomatic credentials to Queen Elizabeth. Al-Annuri proposed a military alliance between the two countries that would attack both Spanish and Ottoman positions in North Africa. Although such proposals foundered (primarily because Elizabeth did not want to compromise her alliance with the Moroccans’ adversaries, the Ottomans), al-Annuri’s highly visible presence in London appears to have influenced Shakespeare when writing Othello within just months of the ambassador’s departure. Both are charismatic, sophisticated but also troubling figures, employed to fight the Ottoman Turks, potential allies, but who might at any moment ‘turn Turk’, reconvert, or simply disappear, cosmopolitan and ‘extravagant’ strangers of here and everywhere.

We can no longer see Othello as simply the barbaric, jealous black man of so many 20th-century stage productions. These interpretations were important in supporting American Civil Rights and anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa, and many great productions came out of that moment, but as with so many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, Othello now responds to a set of different issues: of how to cross borders and remain cosmopolitan in an age of globalisation that manipulates populist xenophobia; and how to appreciate that Islam, in all its various Turkish, North African and Arabic manifestations, is and has always been a part of Europe, since the time of Shakespeare.

A Moor for Our Time

Posted on: February 28th, 2017 by ettAdmin

How would our view of Othello change if we knew he were a Muslim? Not merely the Moor of Venice – the slave-convert to Christianity – but an actual believer. What if, to protect his life and true faith, Othello learns to adapt and navigate the foreign ways of his Venetian masters so convincingly that he becomes the general of their armies – armies that bear the cross and seek conquest over their Turkish (read “Muslim”) enemies? In contemporary lingo, Othello is English literature’s first code-switcher.

To assert Othello’s Islam is far more subversive than it may seem at first. In Othello’s time, like our own, faith is not merely a religious confession – it is a communal and political identity. It is tied up with power and conquest. It is the basis for social acceptance and rejection. It carries with it culture and practice.

This production isn’t the first time that Othello has been portrayed as a Muslim, but it hasn’t happened often. His religious and cultural past are certainly referred to in Shakespeare’s text, but most interpretations have been crass, equating – whether they intend to or not – Othello’s “Moorishness” with a proclivity to violence and anger.

I’m certain that Othello has never been portrayed as a Muslim in a time quite like this. We watch this Othello in a period of profound unease. Brexit. Trump. Populism. Refugees. Terror. The very desirability of an inclusive, pluralistic, global society is under scrutiny. Our diversity is no longer considered a strength. We turn over in our heads (and hearts, if we’re honest) the possibility that there are some people who are just too different to be “us”.

And what about those of “us” who are immigrants and – like me – are children of immigrants and – like me – are the grandchildren of immigrants? We, who like Othello, carry many nations, languages, identities, homes and ethnicities in us? We, who like Othello, have had their lives shaped by conquest and shifting borders, even before we were born? Is pledging fealty before God to the Queen and her heirs not enough to prove our belonging?

After all, in the end it wasn’t enough for Othello to have pledged his allegiance to the most potent, grave and reverend signiors of Venice to avoid the accusation of having wielded his Moorish magic or seduced Venice’s most desirable debutante. How quickly does Brabantio’s love for Othello collapse when he is informed an old black ram/ Is tupping your white ewe? It is enough for him to revert to the demonic mythology that European Christendom created about the heathen “Mahometans” who were in league with the devil and practitioners of black magic. Othello becomes an abuser of the world, a practicer/ Of arts inhibited and out of warrant.

Othello as a resident of Venice would have known that, in 1516, the city established the (first ever) Jewish ghetto whose inhabitants had to wear special identification, were restricted to a few professions and were locked into the neighbourhood at night under armed guard. He might also have known that while Jews eventually built synagogues and were allowed some form of community, Muslim traders to the city were sequestered in buildings away from the local population and denied a proper place to congregate for prayer. In fact, no mosque has ever been built in Venice. Attempts by an Icelandic artist to establish a mosque as an artistic installation during the 2015 Venice Biennale was shut down within two weeks of its opening. Another #MuslimBan of sorts.

Othello understands what all marginalised people do in varying degrees: to survive, you have to assimilate, you have to mask your true self. To act Venetian, to act white, to act Christian is the only way to make yourself consequential. It is the only way for your life to matter. He knows how to self-deprecate. He knows how to appear an insider, whilst knowing he can never be one. He makes sure the cross around his neck is clearly seen in public, his Muslim prayer beads hidden in his pocket . He knows not to appear the Moor.

The image of Victor Oshin’s Othello, hands raised in prayer is arresting. It is Muslim custom to raise the palms of the hand upwards as a symbol of penitence and humility. It is the physical embodiment of the anticipation that God’s mercy and compassion will soon be received. One imagines being cleansed and blessed by divine mercy.

There is something urgent in this picture. Othello is in this private moment is expressing an aspect of his truest self. He has dropped the artifice of the Venetian general and warrior. Here he is with his God. Other than his love and marriage to Desdemona, we can imagine that this is Othello at his most authentic.

It must be exhausting to maintain the high-wire act of hiding one’s true identity. We can only imagine the cognitive discord that Othello has to endure. Just as he strikes down his brother Turk on the battlefields of Aleppo and Cyprus, he has to strike down his true self to survive.

Imagining that Othello is a Muslim also gives his speech the possibility of double meanings. When he speaks of being taken by the insolent foe, who is he speaking of, the Arab slave traders – or the Venetian ones?

Yet, Othello is compelling because he appears to us as upright, honourable and straightforward. Perhaps it is because of the Muslim society he was born into, the noble birth of which he speaks and the education he acquired from his travels in the Maghreb and beyond. He is not too quick to violence. He’s not impulsive. He is not a little Venetian islander, but a cosmopolitan Moor.

So it’s all the more distressing that the person with whom he shares the greatest confidence undoes him. In poisoning others against him, Iago is not only the most devious nemesis to Othello, but also a representation of the rot at the heart of Venetian society itself.

Venice might be the city of art, learning and martial power, but it is a city forged by conquest and colonialism, a city of ghettos and exclusion, a place of superstition and xenophobia. “Honest” Iago is the product of Venice’s wars, its politics and its morality (speaking about the pranks of Venetian women, he declares their best conscience/ Is not to leave’t undone, but keep’t unknown). He is the voice of, what we might call in our time, “white supremacy”.

Iago is the master of “alternative facts”. The manufacturer of false scenario and story. His tactics are at once familiar to us. They are today used in the highest political offices in the world.

In corrupting Othello’s morality and poisoning his heart against Desdemona, Iago is not unleashing some buried savage temperament in Othello. He is wearing down Othello’s moral compass, which we can imagine – knowing his hidden devotion – is grounded in his faith. Othello becomes the murderer not because he has proclivity to murder, but that his ethics are undermined by the compelling jealousy and hate Iago cultivates in him. It is Iago who carefully, methodically unleashes the worst aspects of men in him.

Iago is the one who calls to honour violence, not Othello. It is a misogyny that exists under the surface of Venetian society’s graces and order (in all societies truthfully). Othello initially rejects it, but Iago excites the worst of his human natures. Even Desdemona’s murder, carried out in fits and starts, reveals the internal conflict that remains in Othello. Yet, he falls prey to the toxic patriarchy that Iago peddles and that lurks deep in men’s veins.

When he takes his own life, Othello isn’t just punishing himself for his grievous act, but for not living up to his true love, his true faith and his God. He has laid waste to his own morality. He has become malignant. He is a circumcised dog because others’ hatreds have become his own. He has become bestial. He has been deceived.

It is a sign of the depth of his faith. His breaking the divine moral code demands the ultimate atonement. It could also be an indication that he has also abandoned faith. Maybe, he no longer believes in God’s mercy – the most emblematic attribute of the divine in Islam. He is now convinced that human hands alone must carry out justice. Iago’s scheme has borne its intended bitter fruit.

It is sobering reminder of the impact of psychological violence on the spirit. Hiding, assimilating and adapting exhausts our spiritual and moral capital, which has deadly consequences.

Othello is a play for our time. To imagine him a Muslim is to affix a fresh lens to our understanding of this story, allowing us to see the drama anew. Today, we debate the spectre of the Muslim other, we question whether black lives matter and the long poisonous legacy of colonisation and conquest. Othello confronts all these whilst laying bare how these political and social arguments impact on our humanity.

Shakespeare could not have imagined the power and prescience that Othello holds for us today. The greatest works of art are not only a reflection of their times, but they speak to the timeless – human strengths, human weaknesses, human struggles. That oft-cited “human condition” doesn’t seem to waver much over time. It is driven by the same passions and lusts, aspirations and desires, wants and needs that drive all human stories. Perhaps it is because of this sense of timelessness that Othello is able to offer us an even greater gift: a rich narrative canvas on which to draw the contemporary faultlines of identity, power, privilege, religion and race.