KiSSiT WiP: ‘Researching and Staging “Othello on Trial”: Political and Theatrical Conundrums’

We are proud to present the inaugural session of KiSSiT WiP. The title for this session is ‘Researching and Staging Othello on Trial: Political and Theatrical Conundrums’ and it will feature Adrian Howe and Eric Heinze from Queen Mary, University of London.

The session will take place on Thursday October 22, 5 pm at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. We will convene in the Gallery. Check out our Facebook event, too.

KiSSiT Work-in-Progress is meant mainly for post-graduates and early career researchers to present and try out their new ideas in an informal and supportive environment. As you can see from our first session we try not to discriminate against slightly senior academics if they are enthusiastic to take part. As always, this session is open and free to everyone.

The backdrop for this session is the play, Othello on Trial, written by Adrian Howe and directed by Jessica Beck. Two performances are sold out on the November 5 and 6 and a third is added on Nov 6 at 2 pm. Here is a description of the play (from the Othello on Trial Flyer 12 October; click the link for more info):

Boy meets girl, falls in love, kills her. It’s a story at least as old as Shakespeare’s Othello and with two women in the UK killed each week by their male partners — it couldn’t be more disturbingly topical. This new play tackles possessive jealousy and its fatal consequences. Othello stands trial at the Old Bailey for killing his ‘unfaithful’ wife. Murder or manslaughter? Should his time-honoured resort to a victimblaming defence trump her right to life?

Othello on Trial, the first play in a new youth theatre project, was piloted as a rehearsed reading in London in November 2014 and performed in Melbourne, Australia in March 2015. Emphasising the critical importance of primary prevention and attitudinal change, the project aims to stimulate debate about continuing high levels of violence against women focusing on men’s culturally-embedded excuses for killing their women partners — she was unfaithful, she disobeyed her husband, she left him.

Othello on Trial takes a novel approach to promoting discussion. It weaves scenes from Othello, Shakespeare’s play featuring an ‘infidelity’-inspired wife killing, with excerpts from historic and contemporary trials of English wife killers.

Act 1 addresses the pivotal race question in Shakespeare’s Othello. Showcasing provocation by infidelity as a deeply ingrained cultural excuse sanctioned by law for English wife-killers, Act 2 substitutes a white for a black Othello and puts him on trial for murder at the Old Bailey. A judge and the defendant enact a courtroom drama with a prosecutor and defence lawyer (played by black Othello from Act 1) who take their arguments verbatim from trial records. The audience take the role of jurors. Their deliberations become Act 3 of the play which doubles as an open forum to discuss whether loss of control due to extreme jealousy or possessiveness should mitigate murder today.

In addition, something about our speakers:

Adrian Howe is adjunct senior research fellow, Socio-Legal Research Centre, Griffith University, Australia. She researches in the field of sexed violence. Her recent work focuses on intimate partner homicide and reforms to the law of murder in England and Wales. She is currently developing a youth theatre project, ‘Seeing Red: Possessive Love, Murderous Rage’ that takes a novel approach to challenging the gendered relations underpinning violence against women. It utilises Shakespeare’s uncannily timely parodies of possessive jealousy and ‘infidelity’-inspired rage, putting them to work in dramatisations of intimate partner homicides today. She has also taken the lead in setting up a femicide research network in London. The network will compare court dispositions in intimate femicide cases in jurisdictions across Europe. Its profile is publicised on the website of a partner organisation, the London Centre for Social Studies.

Adrian is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at QMUL. Besides Othello on Trial, she has edited and written several academic books, most recently Sex, Violence and Crime–Foucault and the ‘Man’ Question (2008). Check out her extensive professional profile.

After completing studies in Paris, Berlin, Boston, and Leiden, Eric Heinze worked with the International Commission of Jurists and UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, in Geneva, and on private litigation before the United Nations Administrative Tribunal in New York. He is a member of the Bars of New York and Massachusetts, and has also advised NGOs on human rights, including Liberty, Amnesty International and the Media Diversity Institute. He currently co-ordinates Queen Mary’s Inter-Departmental Philosophy Programme. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and other publications. He serves on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Human Rights and the British Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Professor Heinze’s books include Hate Speech and Democratic Citizenship (2016), The Concept of Injustice(2013), The Logic of Constitutional Rights (2005); The Logic of Liberal Rights (2003); The Logic of Equality(2003), Sexual Orientation: A Human Right (1995) (Russian translation 2004), and the collection Of Innocence and Autonomy: Children, Sex and Human Rights (2000). He is currently co-authoring a book, with Gavin Phillipson, entitled Debating Hate Speech. Listen to Eric’s great talk on Shakespeare and equivocation in the Spring 2014 season. Also, interesting stuff in his profile page.

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About kingstonshakespeareseminar

Kingston Shakespeare is the home of KiSS, and its offshoot KiSSiT. Both explore the world by thinking through Shakespeare.
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