Small wonder there is a roar of appreciation, as well as rapturous applause, at the curtain call for this piece of dramatic dynamite. Shakespeare’s dark tragedy receives a mesmeric catapult into the 21st century in a pulsing production that will mark a memorable introduction to the Bard for younger audience members.
From the start, Scott Graham’s direction, Laura Hopkins’ design and the edgy soundtrack of Hybrid fuse into a combustible piece of high-energy physical theatre.
Hybrid sets the scene with a driving beat – propelling us into Hopkins’ seedy bar room set, with its pool table, gaming machine and tired Regency-stripe wallpaper.
Here, Shakespeare’s characters are reinvented as a pub-based gang we first meet engaging in robustly choreographed horseplay. The pace then decelerates, with billiard cues lending themselves to more subtle innuendo than you could shake a stick at.
The way Graham freezes a character while others circle about in slow motion is an effective dramatic device, which acts as a visual counterpoint to the gymnastic energy of the fight choreography.
Mark Ebulue is a strong Othello whose noble sentiments and naivety present a soft target for the manipulative plotting of Steven Miller’s Iago. Miller turns in a fine performance as Othello’s ‘friend’, calculatingly purporting to present truths while secretly instigating his web of toxic deceit.
Kirsty Oswald conjures a doting, sensuous Desdemona, portraying a growing, poignant incomprehension at the wrongs she is accused of committing.
The excellent design and use of the bar walls is such that they can concertina in and out, never to better effect that in the scene in which Othello’s second lieutenant Cassio Ryan Fletcher reels along them in a drunken haze.
Verdict:A powerful production that brings a winning contemporary edge to the Bard
- The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth
- Dates: October 4-11, PN October 8, then touring until February 7, 2015
- Authors: William Shakespeare, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett adaptation
- Director: Scott Graham
- Design: Laura Hopkins set; Natasha Chivers lighting, Gareth Fry sound, Hybrid soundtrack
- Technical: Eddie Kay movement director, Sarah Hughes casting director, Nick Ferguson and Hugh Borthwick production managers, Richard Llewelyn stage manager
- Cast includes: Mark Ebulue, Steven Miller, Kirsty Oswald, Richard James-Neale, Ryan Fletcher, Barry Aird
- Producers: Frantic Assembly, Theatre Royal Plymouth
- Running time: 1hr 45mins