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Othello

Published 15 January 2015

What’s it all about?

This is Shakespeare’s story of jealousy, paranoia and prejudice as you’ve never seen it before. Stripped down to its bare bones – that’s 100 minutes straight through in practical terms – the always exhilarating physical theatre company Frantic Assembly has brought the story bang up to date, setting it during the 2001 race riots in Yorkshire.

Vicious, brutal and often heart rate-increasingly frightening, a shabby pub becomes the setting for Othello’s undoing in the hands of the savagely ambitious Iago, while Shakespeare’s text is trimmed to its most minimal, allowing Frantic’s visceral and emotionally charged choreography to do the work.

In this Yorkshire pub, as the tough as nails men circle the equally fierce females, playing pool becomes a carnal sport and the adrenaline of winning yet another fight is celebrated with aggression-fuelled victory dances.

Who’s in it?

A physically imposing Mark Ebulue and engaging Kirsty Oswald lead as Othello and Desdemona. With the pool table acting as their bed, the pair brings a sexually charged energy to the production that bristles and burns until the lines between passion and violence become dangerously blurred.

Steven Miller is a suitably menacing Iago with an impressive ability to switch personalities and alliances in a terrifyingly convincing show of false sincerity, while Ryan Fletcher plays Cassio as a try-hard drunk, mocked by the others as he is fed a diet of shots and pills.

What should I look out for?

The first 10 minutes of the show when the show’s booming music creates the backdrop for a tightly choreographed introduction to the characters’ world that brings all the gang violence, misogynistic overtones, simmering tension and downright raunch of the production into sharp focus. Who needs words, hey?

In a nutshell?

This is Shakespeare as you have never seen it before; stripped to its very emotional core and given a tough, visceral twist through Frantic Assembly’s arresting and razor sharp movement.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@valetudocage Just seen Othello performed by @franticassembly it’s brilliant. Tough, honest and brutal. The movement allows the verse more muscularity

@JadeAnouka So #Othello @LyricHammer @franticassembly Last night was so good. @rikneale u r a wonderful Roderigo. Great stuff all round. Don’t miss this!

Will I like it?

If you loved the movement in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time or are itching for a completely new theatrical experience for 2015, this is an excellent bet for starters. Even if you feel like you’ve seen enough Shakespeare to last a lifetime, trust me, this is a new beast entirely…

Othello is playing until 7 February at the Lyric Hammersmith. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.

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