"The concept was based on finding a setting that created a closed and claustrophobic world in which the intense psychodrama could play out. I wanted the sense of the military to be tangible, so that Otello's status as a 'warrior' was immediately contextualised and his recourse to violence as a solution more understandable.
I was interested in images of warfare that would make an immediate connection to a modern audience. Therefore, although the presence of water makes Iraq as an actual setting impossible, I wanted some imagery from that conflict to be hinted at and a sense of the Middle East as the invaded territory. (The 'mission accomplished' helicopter and the burning oil fields for the fire of victory.)
The aircraft carrier created a neat solution to many of these impulses. First up, it avoided the risk of a typically rain and wind-free storm by playing that scene as an interior with the action viewed by the chorus on screens in a 'war-room'. The very low ceiling height in such vessels allowed for some scenes to feel intensely claustrophobic or/and intimate when required. However the ability to raise the ceiling to create the hangar allowed us to give larger scenes their required scope and glimpse the 'locals' in Act 2.
I was also interested in the amount of 'surveillance' in the piece - and creating as contemporary sense of that as possible. So the spying scenes are supported by a sense of close-circuit cameras and the action being watched on screens and via headphones as much as in the flesh.
The design is rich in atmospheric verismo and detail, with quite a filmic quality, but of course overall it's a necessary distillation/stylisation, allowing us to vary the playing spaces without monumental movement of scenery. There will be one interval between Acts 2 and 3."
Simon Phillips, Director
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