By Danielle Farrow
Four men, along with a dj providing the tracks, present an Othello that is modern, musical and magnificent. It follows closely Shakespeare’s plotline and ideas but is all about a rapping crew, whose internal pressures destroy its leader’s world and bring down a number of others along the way.
Shakespeare’s Othello sees a highly accomplished leader brought to murder his beloved wife through his jealousy, greatly manipulated by one of his men, the scheming Iago who tells the audience his plans before carrying them out. Othello – The Remix retains all of this and uses rapping language that mirrors the thoughts and analogies of Shakespeare’s play. This is an impressive accomplishment on the part of the creators and directors of the piece, who are also two of the performers, known only in the programme – and on their overalls – as GQ and JQ or The Q Brothers.
Together with Amir Abdullah as Othello and Jackson Doran as Cassio (favoured crew member, almost destroyed by Iago) and Emilia (Iago’s wife, probably destroyed by Iago), JQ and GQ create Shakespeare’s characters in the hip-hop world. Othello’s great love Desdemona never actually appears (a decision of some wisdom), but is heard as a very fine vocal presence for certain numbers. The other women in the story are entertainingly and even engagingly camped up by Doran and JQ. There is great humour in all the character creations, which include an incredibly nerdy Roderigo (a techie for the crew’s major tour, manipulated by Iago even unto death – that is, definitely destroyed by Iago) who is obsessed with fantasy games and films, as well as Desdemona. A major part of the joy of this production is that many characters are treated as comic to the nth degree but somehow played with integrity and kept real to the extent that you can believe in them and even care about them.
Played against tabs with classical imagery defaced by lively graffiti, the energy and forward drive of the performers keeps the pace electric, though some of the harder constant rhythms do not allow quite enough subtlety in tone for Iago’s machinations. Great use, though, is made of the occasional silence / lack of backing music, especially at the play’s climax. Genuine feeling, in among all the comedy and frenetic physicality, is achieved.
The story of Othello is always kept clear, with verbal dexterity making sure of this, fully supported by physical prowess, and this Remix is a highly entertaining modernised version of Shakespeare’s play. It gets the audience on board right from the start, keeps them racing along with the players throughout and delivers text that, while not Shakespeare‘s, runs strikingly parallel to his script and true to his imagery. This is Othello made highly amusing yet still retaining much of its tragic impact – definitely one to watch!