Frantic Assembly's revival of Othello originally adapted, directed and choreographed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett is a gripping 21st century take interweaving gang culture influences, northern accents, contemporary costume and a pulsating music score that compliments the action to rigorous effect. The rapidly changing set is used exquisitely and is subject to constant change; it fluctuates effortlessly between an old, murky pub to the dark and dangerous streets where violence and bloodshed occurs. The set therefore creates the brilliant suggestion of constantly moving towards a more tempestuous end and mirrors the restlessly shifting emotions of the characters on stage. The choreography is a stunning visual compromising dance and slow-motion movements which slow down the action within a blink of an eye and bring audiences back to the present almost immediately. The play has a run time of 1 hour and 40 minutes and combined with these brisk changes, it makes for a brilliantly paced reworking of Othello which is current and executes the more finer parts of the play masterfully.
Othello (Mark Ebulue) is a commanding and vigorous presence with a loving intensity in his eyes during the romantic scenes with Desdemona (Kirsty Oswald). The passion of the lovers is hinted at so as not to become too lustful for the audience and the influx of jealousy and paranoia smears across Ebulue's face at just the right moments. One such highlight is the tender and playful dance that occurs between the lovers on top of the pool table, where bathed in a romantic purple glow, Othello and Desdemona caress each other's body in a sensual and provocative manner and bring the lover's passions to the public eye. The pool table is significant in its suggestion that love is indeed a game in this play.
Steven Miller portrays the devilish Iago to near-perfection and renders true the image of the serpent who lurks behind the ear and poisons each character with his acid tongue. Miller is particularly good when in dialogue with other characters but weaker during his monologues, which could have been performed with more passion and dexterity. As his demise comes near, Miller appears on stage with an almost humorously blood-stained 'Just Do It' t-shirt, summing up Iago's entire essence throughout the play. Leila Crerar, who plays Emilia, also gloriously peaks towards the end of the play and evokes the more feminist connotations of her character.
Frantic Assembly's Othello explores issues of friendship, love and betrayal and race and gender within a modern and explosive framework. This is a well-paced. and visually stimulating production worth seeing for its thrilling opening sequence and terrifying ending.