Some re-imagining of Shakespeare plays can creak under the weight of their own ideas, but this is not the case of Darren Raymond’s Othello: Remixed, which is not only one of the most radical reworkings of a Shakespeare play around but also one of the most solidly conceived.
Othello (Kwame Reed) is a boxer about to break through into the big time; the rest of the cast play his cohorts of mates. The action takes place in their blue-and-red gym. Catherine Morgan’s set utilises a full-size ring, which works beautifully to create dynamism and theatricality as characters climb in and out as others stalk its perimeter, overhearing, plotting and reacting.
But the language is the real star. Shakespeare’s verse is interwoven with swathes of new dialogue that faithfully mirrors street vernacular: the blend of “bluds” and “fams” with Shakespeare’s lines is seamless and hilarious. Rapid-fire quips spill forth and the performances are joyful. Iain Gordon is a delight as brash and bemused Rico, easily taken in by Baba Oyejide’s casual, opportunistic Iago in his deluded lust for Dessie.
The women shine, too. A slimmed-down cast allows for a better gender balance, allowing Desdemona (Hoda Bentaher), Emilia (Nakeba Buchanan) and Bianca (Ellie Lees) more stage time. Along with Danielle Adegoke, who skilfully handles most of the original verse as the referee, their performances are assured and nuanced.
Despite the brevity and levity, Othello: Remixed manages to land a huge emotional punch, delivering a tragic knock-out blow.