‘We may need a bit more nourishment’: OTHELLOMACBETH – Lyric Hammersmith ★★★

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Lyric Hammersmith, London – until 3 November 2018
Guest reviewer: Gloria Trubshaw

Plays for poor theatre: in Brexit Britain, once we’re reduced to eating rats whilst clutching our blue passports, a Shakespeare mashup may seem like a doubly good idea – patriotic and economical. Like May’s Brexit, Othellomacbeth still needs a bit of work.

For a start, I’d secretly hoped they might try to combine the plays – intertextualism or a Shakespeare universe crossover for Whovian millennials. Desdemona as Banquo’s Ghost giving us Macthello. They didn’t of course.  Kirsten Foster plays the Moor’s doomed lover in full Violet Elizabeth Bott mode, which only modulates slightly when she takes over as a witch in Act II, whilst Ery Nzaramba, at first a breezy, sexy, insouciant Othello morphs into something out of Scooby Doo as Banquo’s Ghost.

Compacting the plays into two hours means sacrifices – character development in Othello and the delicious slow brew of violence into insanity in the Scottish Play are both casualties. In exchange, we get a lot of messaging – not always a bad thing – and the killings of Desdemona and Emilia make rich pickings for the #MeToo age. But sometimes, as in Anjana Hanson’s ‘Oh Sister’, sung in feminist anthem leading into the segue between the two works, it’s as subtle as Harvey Weinstein falling on a starlet, semi first.

There are some definite highs: the entr’acte and witches are atmospherically staged, and escape some of the me-too of a different sort that threatens to overwhelm elsewhere. Tonight’s Shouting Shakespeare Award goes to Sandy Grierson for both Cassio and Macbeth – energetic but unhinged.

There’s a definite lift towards the end of Act I – not just because director Jude Christian gutted the best lines but because of Caroline Faber’s Lady Macbeth reimagined as Rizzo in Grease, an all-round good time girl who gets things done.

I love a BOGOF as much as anyone, but in the Brexit bonanza, will Othellomacbeth feel too much like shrinkflation?

And I fear we may need a bit more nourishment than this breezy and at times bold Venetian fritto misto with a side of neeps and tatties can offer.

Additional research by Mike Clarke

Until 3 November

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Johnny Fox
‘Johnny Fox’ studied Theatre at Lancaster University and Journalism at City before realising there was no money in either profession and concentrating instead on interior design for investment banks in Singapore, New York and Moscow. Back home, he now writes mostly about theatre, mostly in London, for arts and events websites. He blogs independently at www.johnnyfox.london.
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Johnny Fox on FacebookJohnny Fox on Twitter
Johnny Fox
‘Johnny Fox’ studied Theatre at Lancaster University and Journalism at City before realising there was no money in either profession and concentrating instead on interior design for investment banks in Singapore, New York and Moscow. Back home, he now writes mostly about theatre, mostly in London, for arts and events websites. He blogs independently at www.johnnyfox.london.