REVIEW: Othello - Lyric Hammersmith

I never win anything (apart from a bottle of dodgy wine once in a raffle) so I was beyond excited when I got a message on Twitter from the Lyric Hammersmith telling me I had won two tickets to Frantic Assembly's production of Othello.

And it was fantastic! I urge anyone who can to go and see it!

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The production is set in a working men's club, with a pool table, gambling machine and faded red upholstery. The music is pounding and a group of, for lack of a better word, chavs is drinking, playing and... erm... dancing. My first thought was; "And now we shall present the work of William Shakespeare through the medium of interpretive dance..."

If you're going to commit to a concept, you have to commit all the way. And my goodness they did! The movement never looked out of place, which is strange when tracksuited skinheads are quoting Shakespeare; everything flowed, suited the characterisation and was skilfully presented. The choreography was clever; twisting and aggressive, and enhanced moments beautifully, such as the tender scene on the pool table between Othello ( Mark Ebulue) and Desdemona (Kirsty Oswald), or the fight sequence, which was beautifully lit.

The set was equally clever; the walls of the club opening to reveal the street, or spinning round to become the ladies toilets. My favourite moment occurred during the scene where the men are getting Cassio (Ryan Fletcher) drunk; as he staggered into the walls they moved and melted around him, accompanied by an edge-of-hearing tinnitus through the music - that is what being drunk is like! The walls move!

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In the small company (nine cast members) there was not a weak link for me. Ebulue was an impressive and imposing Othello - there are few actors of his physique on the stage in the UK at the moment and it won't be long until television snaps him up, I'm sure - Oswald was a sympathetic Desdemona - I loved the portrayal of her as a beer swilling ladette with a heart of gold, and the impact of her death scene was extraordinary. Barry Aird's Brabantio was suitably menacing, and Richard James-Neale as Roderigo brought an injection of pathetic comedy to the character.

I suppose the stand-out performance for me was Steven Miller as Iago. The edits to the script meant that the play could have been titled for him, and he extracted every nuance out of the character. His ambitious machinations to overthrow Othello, using Roderigo as a pawn to implicate and attack Casio, his stabbing of Emilia ( Leila Crerar): everything was sharp and bitter as the action of the play wound around him.

The standing ovation from the packed out opening night audience was justly deserved.

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