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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Othello evaluation – Frantic Meeting’s pressing, thrilling tragedy | Theatre

Tright here is nothing well mannered about Frantic Assembly’s Othello. No prettified basic, it’s vulgar, robust and fractious. We’re in a modern-day gangland the place tensions rise over the pool desk and fights escape by the bins. To outlive, you must be fast, brutal and unforgiving.

That’s the reason Michael Akinsulire makes such an unnerving lead. In a manufacturing revived after outings in 2008 and 2014, he’s not a mild-mannered sufferer of racial injustice – though injustice it’s – however an alpha-male pack chief, formidable and muscular, who’s wounded by Iago with a psychological blow extra penetrating than any knife assault. Harm and imbalanced, he’s made harmful.

As soon as Joe Layton’s peak-capped Iago vegetation a seed of doubt, Akinsulire stumbles from a spot of relaxed authority, the assured companion of Chanel Waddock’s streetwise Desdemona in her operating shorts and prime knot, to a flailing has-been, weak and uncontrolled. In Scott Graham’s punchy manufacturing, he’s immersed in violence from the beginning; the suggestion of Desdemona’s infidelity solely plunges him deeper. His behaviour is merciless, but comprehensible.

Punchy … Othello.
Punchy … Othello. {Photograph}: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

“Males are males,” says Iago to account for a brawl behind the pub the place these outsiders deal medicine, vie for authority and shag within the bogs. On this macho world, they adhere to a strict pecking order, every man aware of his standing, every lady clever to the place her man affords her. Iago’s subterfuge doesn’t merely undermine the gang chief, it rips aside the entire delicate construction.

All this brings out the primal passions in Shakespeare’s play. It’s about intercourse and violence, each of which happen on the pool desk that sits on the centre of Laura Hopkins’s cleverly adaptable set. These characters are younger and impulsive, pushed by their urges, be it lust, jealousy or the necessity for respect. Talking in their very own accents, they’re fuelled by delinquent power.

That power is matched by the vigorous dance soundtrack by Gareth Fry and Hybrid, the brash and broody lighting by Natasha Chivers and Andy Purves, and this firm’s signature physical-theatre interjections. Snappy and conversational within the adaptation by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, it’s pressing, abrasive and thrilling.

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