“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” The obvious focus for productions of Othello is the race angle, given the title character’s isolation from the rest of the play’s personnel. However, there are plenty of other themes that run through the heart of this play, such as manipulation, revenge and jealousy – it is in this area that Intermission have chosen to focus, with their production of Othello: Remixed that’s currently running at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham.
Events are transported to a modern-day boxing club in London. Othello is the club’s top fighter, and will soon be heading up to Manchester to fight for the Championship belt; despite Iago’s skill & knowledge, Michael Cassio has been chosen by Othello to be his corner man at the big fight – this decision sets into motion a vengeful chain of events, as Iago chases his own glory as well as Othello’s downfall. He first seeks to remove Cassio from his trusted position, before punishing Othello by casting aspersions on Desdemona’s fidelity. As tempers start to fray, there’s a very real danger that things could get changed forever…
This is probably not one for purists! Over the course of around two hours, Darren Raymond’s production bobs & weaves with a mixture of the original script and some updated text. If you’d asked me beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have been convinced about Nando’s being mentioned in a Shakespearean tragedy, but having now seen it I’m definitely a convert! Some of the modern language jars a little bit, mostly if certain words are used over & over again, but on the whole the slang in particular works really well – plus there’s the added bonus of this making a wider audience feel more at home, or better represented.
The idea of the ‘referee’ being some sort of visual representation of the darkness that comes through in the play is an interesting one – it’s certainly nice to break up the monologues with a different voice every now and then, plus it’s very telling when she finally leaves the ring.
Setting the action in a boxing ring (in the traverse) adds to the tension and drama, allowing events to proceed in a focused way, and with the audience in mind. Catherine Morgan’s set brings the world of boxing to the auditorium, immediately immersing you in the story.
There are strong performances from the entire cast of eight. Iain Gordon provides a good deal of the light relief as the slightly simple Rico (who’s smitten with Desdemona), and Danielle Adejoke is an enigmatic presence as the Referee. Baba Oyejide doesn’t make Iago the stereotypical villain, instead he almost casually slips in the torrent of misogyny and manipulation – believably Othello’s closest friend, to his face at least. Kwame Reed is terrific as the conflicted boxer, torn between love and paranoia, easy prey for the green-eyed monster.
My verdict? An exciting and engaging reimagining of the deadly tragedy – a great combination of new and old.
Othello: Remixed runs at Omnibus Theatre until 14 July 2019. Tickets are now sold out.