Ring of Envy at Intermission Youth Theatre
Whenever Julius Francis – former heavy-weight champion – steps into the ring before a fight, he gets butterflies. A sort of flutter which, he said in a talkback following last night’s performance of Intermission Youth Theatre’s Ring of Envy, are the very sort he gets before going on stage to perform as Frank. The production, which blends the words of Shakespeare’s Othello with contemporary dialogue, is devised by the members of IYT and their director Darren Raymond. Clocking in at around an hour and a half, Ring of Envy packs an unexpected punch.
The house is divided on either side of a boxing ring, the set wrapping around the seating to create an immersive environment, Frank’s gym, where the hopes and dreams of an urban youth community are nurtured, mirroring the community of IYT itself. The company, which has produced three previous Shakespeare adaptations and performed by invitation at the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon, is the brainchild of husband and wife team Reverend Rob Gillion and Catherine Morgan. At-risk youths from throughout the capital are given the opportunity to find a support network, and to learn to express themselves through lengthy devising processes that result in their accessible, chimeric productions. Ring of Envy took almost nine months to create. During that time Raymond plays games, workshops text, and develops characters with the company.
This production is divided between two casts, who play alternating nights. We saw the “red corner” and were particularly impressed by Baba Oyejide’s Iago opposite Joshua Okusnya’s deceptively clownish Rico. Giving the production a surreal tint, Hoda Bentaher and Kwame Reed’s referees drive the plot as a brilliant chorus of inner-demons. While purists might object to the contemporary take on Shakespeare, it’s hard to imagine anyone walking away from this production unaffected by powerful performances erupting from such unlikely ground.
Ring of Envy is at Intermission Youth Theatre until 17th November 2012. For further information or to book visit the company’s website here.