Touring – reviewed at The Lowry, Salford
Lean, mean and totally uncompromising, Frantic Assembly brought a newly updated and gritty version of Shakespeare’s Othello to The Lowry as part of their UK tour. Razor-sharp and captivating, the company’s pulsating and athletic physical style adds new depth to Shakespeare’s text.
Rooted in the 21st century, this thrilling adaptation sees Shakespeare’s characters transported to a brutal gangland; a rundown pub somewhere in the North of England and its tenebrous car park becomes the setting for this violent and visceral production.
Michael Akinsulire takes the title role. Although physically commanding and eloquent, we witness the effect of Iago’s manipulative psychological attack. Othello’s insecurities – associated with his race, age and military service – become easy pickings for Iago. The seeds of doubt, regarding his relationship with Desdemona, are planted and Othello is sent off-kilter – wounded and vulnerable – he is capable of anything.
Shakespeare’s text cuts like broken glass alongside Frantic Assembly’s choreography – mesmerising, defined by a violent grace. Othello’s actions are driven by the characters around him and the way that they propel his downfall. Joe Layton’s power-hungry, gaslighting Iago reduces Akinsulire’s previously assured Othello into a state of lethal paranoia. Chanel Waddock’s street-sharp Desdemona is fresh from the East End of London and sits in a grubby toilet cubicle while confiding to her friend Emilia. This is a production drenched in violence and fear, and the insinuation of Desdemona’s betrayal only makes Othello more dangerous.
Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett’s incisive production is primal and hard-hitting. Laura Hopkins’ versatile set design places a pool table at the centre. The platform becomes a playground for violence and sex; the cues wielded as weapons. Gareth Fry and Hybrid’s dramatic and unbridled dance music soundtrack provides the perfect backdrop for Frantic Assembly’s physical-theatre style.
Utterly watchable and completely captivating. Unapologetic and abrasive, running at just 110 minutes (with a 20-minute interval) this is an electrifying modern-day production of Othello. Shakespeare’s original text has been trimmed but this script is robust and piercing. Utterly watchable and completely captivating.
Frantic Assembly: Othello runs at The Lowry until Saturday 19 November 2022.
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