A modern day ‘Othello’

On Thursday 10th November, Drama & English students from L5-U6 strolled down to the Oxford Playhouse to watch Frantic Assembly’s production of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.

Directed by Scott Graham, the play showed how a Shakespearean play can be modernised for today’s audience. The use of physical theatre was especially effective in the second half of the play where it was used to creatively convey the violence occurring within the scenes.

The production was set in the 2010s and took place within a dingy pub, with functioning pool table and fruit machine, and all cast wearing tracksuits, hoodies and caps, which contrasted the language used within the play; the original script remained in place.

The setting for this play was intriguing, however, the contrast between the dialogue and the modern interpretation was slightly too great making it a bit of an uncomfortable mix at times. It was very interesting to see how the themes of manipulation, deception, betrayal, racism and jealousy are still present in today’s society and it made us think about the world we live in today.

The theme of manipulation with words is seen in the scene where Iago confronts Othello and tricks him into believing his wife Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio. There was an especially impactful moment when Iago grabbed two pool balls, one black and one white, to represent Othello and Desdemona. He used these as an analogy for their relationship and how in reality it won’t work out because of their different races.

The set was really well done and interesting; the back wall moving and twisting to present Cassio’s drunken state was smart and creative. The details of the space were engaging to look at and really immersed you in the performance. The seating booth and pool table were often pushed on and off stage, which was a fantastic idea to allow more space for transitions and physical theatre used in the work. The reveal of the grubby toilet was one of our favourite parts, as it was unexpected and enjoyable to see the set transform throughout. Overall we thought Frantic Assembly’s version of ‘Othello’ was intriguing and engaging.

Written by Zoe, Kiran and Asha, L6.