The most striking thing about Frantic Assembly’s Othello was how the poetry of the Shakespearian language had such tension with the modern aesthetic setting. As the audience walked into the Lyric Hammersmith theatre, they were met with loud, heavy music you would expect to hear in a club, which set up the stereotypical Leeds pub which was laid out for us on stage. As the first actor strutted on stage, the action began immediately as they broke into a dance sequence, prologuing the well known Shakespearian play. The first movement sequence lasted ten minutes during which we learnt the hierarchy and status of the characters. We could clearly distinguish the relationship between Othello and Desdemona in the first few minutes of the play and understood the environment where the story was taking place and the key emotions, which the characters portrayed; sex, jealousy and hate.
The acting in the play was very energetic, the characters were always very aware of each other. This gave the feeling of a community and that they have been going to this pub for a long time. Othello’s character was bold with a sense of presence and power over the other characters, which was obvious from the way the atmosphere completely changed when he walked onstage. For example, he was always centre stage, creating a whirlpool of action around him, circling and clinging on to his every move. His relationship with Desdemona was clearly a sexual and intimate one but didn’t seem to have much more depth. They were materialistic and lustful they were all over each other on stage, but behind closed doors it became obvious that they’re communication didn’t delve much deeper. As for the acting however, it was powerful and electric along with constant movement and flirtation.
Not only did the play deal with relationships, but also it dealt with how relevant these issues are today. Set in a Leeds pub, the setting was familiar and the stories became more realistic. Dressed in tracksuit bottoms, hoodies and crop tops, the costumes allowed the audience to realise exactly what kind of pub this was. No one looked out of place. The grubby graffiti on the loo walls and cigarette stained cushions, overlooking the typical crime scene car park made the outdated language seem strangely relatable. The poetry used to translate the stories of the play was seamlessly integrated into the typical modern setting.
From a movement perspective, some of the lifts required too many people, that it took away the fluidity from the drunken sequence therefore making the stage look over crowded. Having the lifts executed by fewer people could have easily solved this. In conclusion this way of telling the story of Othello highlighted key issues in our modern day society and made it more relatable for this younger audience. The Frantic way of using action and movement with dramatic physicality gave the piece an exciting edge. The relationship between the modern set and Shakespearian language created a dynamic contrast.
By Emily Cliffe, 6.1
Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.