You don’t have to be Shakespeare literate to enjoy Othello Remixed.
In fact, Darren Raymond’s production lulls you into feeling like you completely get Shakespeare and in that lightbulb moment of recognition, you may even be inspired to navigate Bard’s world a little deeper.
Set in a boxing ring frequented by a group of friends, our Othello is a young boxing champ played by Kwame Reed. A gruff-voiced sweet boy who you’d on stereotypical assumption place him in a Grime video. Reed a poet in the real world, gives relatable life to Othello, a man in his boxing prime, and in love with the one and only Desdemona.
But what’s a good Shakespearean drama without, said drama? Enter Iago (Baba Oyejide) usually Othello’s right-hand man, his ego is dented when Othello chooses Cassio (Micah Loubon) to be his cornerman at his next major fight. Thus ensues a frantic master of manipulation hellbent on wreaking revenge upon his supposed best friend. Roping in Rico (Iain Gordon) to be his puppet, Iago weaves his vengeful trail of fiction through his group of friends; driven by an internal narrative visualised by Danielle Adegoke who is captivating as the seductive Referee.
What’s brilliant about this production is Raymond’s smooth transition between youthful slangusitics and the poetry of Shakespeare’s literature. Testament also to his direction of his company of young actors who navigate their scripts dexterously. Each rising to the occasion when needed and falling back when not.
Reed ropes you in as the loveable gentle giant Othello, passionate and determined. Reasonable until blinded by Iago’s mischief you almost feel let down when he gives into blind rage. Oyejide’s Iago is frustratingly good. His treachery we see throughout and groan as each victim falls foul. Light relief is provided by Ellie Lees’ Bianca – the self-obsessed selfie queen, oftentimes the victim of her sexual freedom, and Gordon’s Rico who’s wonderful as that friend who goes along with everyone; who just wants to have fun but easily steered wrong in his attempt to please. Hoda Bentaher’s Desdemona is a slow burner reveal. Serving as the source of Iago’s evil, it’s only during the second act you truly understand Bentaher’s unique and less obvious delivery of the character.
What works with this production is the natural ease in how the story unfolds. The utilisation of the boxing ring as the centerpiece for all the action. The transitions between scenes punctuated by contemporary sounds underpinning the mood. Raymond’s work as artistic director of Intermission Youth Theatre – an organisation dedicated to nurturing the talents of 16-25 year old creatives from across London via their 10-month Youth Theatre programme is testament to the actors who have been through the programme and who have been cast in Othello Remixed.
With the supporting cast Nakeba Buchanan as Emilia, Iago’s long-suffering girlfriend, Tristram Anyiam as Brabantio – Desdemona’s brother, and Nana Antwi-Nyanin as Frank – owner of the boxing gym, Othello’s mentor and father of Brabantio and Desdemona all contributing to the realness of this piece, you can easily overlook some of the play’s slightly rougher edges.
If you want to have that ‘see Shakespeare is just like real life‘ moment with those who scoff at his works, Othello Remixed is the perfect ice breaker.
Othello Remixed runs at the Omnibus Theatre until Sunday July 14th 2019. Find out more and book your tickets here.