The Q brothers’ adaption of Othello breathes some fresh air into the tragedy, brilliantly translating William Shakespeare’s script into a witty, modern context. In reshaping the narrative, the Q brothers introduce us to Othello, played by Postell Pringle, a successful rapper in the music industry about to marry the talented singer Desdemona, along with Casio (Jackson Doran) who is Othello’s new right-hand man on the label, and Iago (played by GQ) bitter at being overlooked for Casio’s position. Iago then proceeds to manipulate every other character in the play, leading to pain, betrayal and ultimately death.
Unlike traditional hip-hop/theatre combinations, this production successfully managed to avoid the tacky stereotype of rap in musical theatre, instead providing sharp, original and intelligent rhymes throughout, packed with Shakespeare and hip-hop allusions. Whilst Othello’s style of rap could be seen as strangely reminiscent of Nas or Mobb Deep; Casio’s seemed to prefer harkening back to the 80’s, almost evocative of De La Soul and The Fresh Prince; Iago’s much like Eminem in his early years, an almost schizophrenic style mirroring his ‘two-faced’ persona. As a collective, the cast moved through various genres of hip hop, touching on the emotional, the hyped, and everything in between. The cast were talented enough for the music to make a show of its own, with original beats and crowd participation.
Despite only a four-man ensemble, and DJ Clayton Stamper, the cast do an excellent job in covering each character’s personality, from JQ’s gullible Roderigo to Doran’s unsatisfied Emilia, using little more than wigs, aprons and caps. GQ’s performance as Iago was particularly striking as a ‘stage-Machiavell (villain)’ darkly twisting each character’s perception, culminating in his performance of “The Puppet Master”, moving from tactfully from scene to scene.
Perhaps the play’s biggest achievement was capturing the energy of Shakespeare’s piece and conveying it to the audience compellingly, subtly, but powerfully picking up on key underlying themes in the original play such as the intricacies of friendship, racism and feminism (epitomised in the comical rendition of ‘It’s a Man’s World’). The piece was dynamic throughout, the end made even more powerful by the sudden change in tone, lighting and pace, capturing the attention of audience members of all ages.
All in all the performance was spectacular, with a difficult to follow opening being one of the only possible flaws. It was hugely original, surprisingly in touch with the audience and highly inventive, definitely a must-see.
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By Seline Alidina and Grant Summers