Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Opening Night verdict
Almost 15 years since it originally premiered, Frantic Assembly’s Othello feels fresh, gripping and revels in every element of Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy.
Predominately set in well-worn working class pub, where a pool table takes centre stage, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett bring their adaptation bang up to date as the opening sequence bursts into life all tracksuits, trainers and bolshy bravado.
Their signature physical theatre is put to incredible use as Michael Akinsulire’s commanding Othello leads his gang of brothers from the front, occupying their seemingly safe space within the pub with a cool air of authority, where tension is constant & there’s an ever present feeling that violence could erupt at any moment.
The multiple sequences of Frantic Assembly’s trademark choreography, often almost silent bar a blaring soundtrack are superb; while the Bard’s text is delivered with authenticity and brutal emotion, this is a Shakespeare for today, raw and real.
Michael Akinsulire illustrates Othello’s complexities flawlessly, his brooding behaviour keeps you on guard throughout, one moment he’s tender the next tormented. The choice to set this piece in modern day makes for an all the more stark realisation that the accusations of Desdemona’s (Chanel Waddock) infidelity are completely unfounded and unjust. Waddock is no wallflower, giving as good as she gets, but she is loyal and loving right to the end.
Iago is portrayed perfectly by Joe Layton, snide and calculating; no one is off limits as his lies wreak havoc. He needs barely any motive at all to condemn those around him through his malicious exploitation.
Kirsty Stuart makes for a memorable Emilia, ensuring the short scene in Act 2 between her & Desdemona which takes place in the women’s toilets feel pivotal. While Felipe Pacheco and Tom Gill as Rodrigo and Cassio respectively, add depth and humanity to the piece.
As with all Frantic Assembly productions this is a true ensemble piece with the whole cast working together seamlessly to create this powerful retelling of Shakespeare’s bleak tragedy. The pub setting is inspired and makes it feel wholly accessible to modern audiences. Laura Hopkins set designed paired with lighting design from Natasha Chivers and Andy Purves and a thumping soundtrack from Hybrid cement the inspired modern-day setting.
This is thrilling theatre which builds to a devastating finale as the brutality of revenge and the fragility of ego plays out. A powerful, punchy and poignant Othello which will leave you wanting all of Shakespeare’s classics to get the Frantic Assembly treatment, superb!
Othello is on at The Lowry until Saturday 19th November here.