Writer: William Shakespeare (adapted by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett)
Director: Scott Graham
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
Lads will be lads, and this is true whether it’s in the Shakespearian era or the twenty-first century. This Frantic Assembly production of the Bard’s infamous Othello, is fuelled by testosterone, sex and jealousy in equal measure.
It’s deliciously physical theatre played out by young fit talented actors; the costumes are the sporty joggers, 3-stripes, skinny denim, muscle tees and crop tops of the young ‘chav’ generation. The group demonstrates racial and social tension, destruction of friendship and pure violence in a truly bold and shocking fashion. There’s distressingly loud music that builds almost to crescendo but never gets there, just leaving the threat of tension in the air, and there’s really little need for words because the actions speak so loudly.
The leading couple, Mark Ebulue as Othello and Kirsty Oswald as Desdemona, ooze passion, and some almost x-rated action takes place on the pool table, which always takes centre stage. As well as the raw sex, there’s real beauty that could rival a ballet played out on there, and the audience is mesmerised by the final scene in which Othello metes out revenge for his supposed cuckolding, then succumbs to his guilt towards his “one who loved too well”. Iago, played almost too convincingly by a shaven-headed Steven Miller, seems to exude true evil and menace. “Iago, this is thy work” and thus ends the tragedy. How could he bring about such wanton destruction with a mere handkerchief as a weapon?
The set is a fluid one; a hinged mobile pub walls make way for a stark brick wall daubed with graffiti, and the cast members effortlessly shift and change the scenes as they move around the stage. The lighting is subtle to reflect the dingy tap room interior and shady alley outside, but the intense coloured lighting focused on the pool table action adds immensely to the atmosphere.
If you can get over the fact that you’re witnessing Shakespeare spoken with a twinge of Essex, and you can cope with the purely deafening music, this is a great show. The Old English words of Shakespeare are somewhat incongruous issuing from the mouths of modern uncouth youngsters, but their message is so clear as to make that irrelevant.
Runs until: Saturday 8th Nov 2014