Othello: Remixed at Omnibus Theatre
Past meets present in compelling fashion in Intermission Theatre Company’s (ITC) punchy retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello. Pun entirely intended. Swapping the scenic backdrops of Venice and Cyprus for a centre-stage boxing ring, the eponymous General is instead a Championship boxer in this contemporary revamp. After Othello chooses Cassio to be his cornerman rather than Iago, the production follows Iago’s ill-advised and equally ill-fated attempt at avenging this supposed slight, by fabricating a story of an affair between Cassio and Othello’s girlfriend, Desdemona. Cue the signature passion of a Shakespearean tragedy, only with an abundance of street slang and a killer soundtrack thrown in for good measure.
Comprised entirely of graduates from the Intermission Youth Theatre (a mentoring programme aimed at young people at risk or without access to opportunities), this production sees ITC Artistic Director Darren Raymond, confidently at the helm. Himself a former offender, Raymond sets the action amidst the murky world of drugs, violence and gun crime.
The original Shakespearean text weaves flawlessly together with London slang throughout, with a “fam’”and “bruv” uttered in one breath followed by a “doth” and “my lord” in the next. No easy feat, but boy does it work. Despite existing almost entirely within the confines of a boxing ring, the play certainly doesn’t feel restricted, with the cast moving in and around the space effortlessly. Music and lighting are also used brilliantly to set the tone of scenes, often feeling like characters in and of themselves. Whether it’s the frenzied flashing of a blue neon light as Othello shadow boxes in the ring, or how the soundtrack shifts unapologetically from The O’Jays to Drake without missing a beat, quite remarkably, nothing feels out of place. Impressive, considering that the source material, Raymond’s 2019 reimagining and the soundtrack cover a span of a hefty few centuries.
Kwame Reed (Othello) and Baba Oyejide (Iago) give the two strongest performances of the cast, commanding scenes with ease. Reed’s Othello is suitably brooding, while Oyejide straddles the line between the tragedy of the original text and comedy of the modern script to great effect. Micah Loubon (Cassio) is also memorable, with Iain Gordon as Rico (Roderigo in the original play) and Ellie Lees (Bianca) providing welcome comic relief. Hoda Bentaher (Desdemona) has some good moments, though her performance overall feels more one-note than fully realised. Similarly, Danielle Adegoke as the Referee is at times a little unconvincing in her portrayal.
A solid example of Shakespeare reworked in the right way, Othello: Remixed is all at once a comic, tragic and harrowing production that will no doubt leave a lasting impression. You certainly won’t forget the final few moments – or that final line – in a hurry.
Photo: Richard Jinman
Othello: Remixed is at Omnibus Theatre from 25th June until 14th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.