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Friday, 3 October 2008

Review: Shakespeare's Othello at The Lowry, Manchester

Teachers bring much of the stress they so frequently purport to suffer from upon themselves, doing such foolhardy things as booking tickets to see Othello on a Thursday evening. After teaching for six hours - including an hour on Othello - said teacher can think of few things she would rather do less than drive to The Lowry and sit through a couple of hours of Shakespeare: opening a bottle of wine and watching America's Next Top Model clearly being a preferable option.

I did, however, dutifully drag myself to The Lowry, and I am extremely glad I did. Frantic Assembly's current production of Othello, which finishes tonight, is the best interpretation of a Shakespeare play I have ever seen: genuinely ground-breaking without losing the power or the beauty of the original language. The setting has been updated to take place in a Northern pub called The Cypress, a witty reference to the section of the play that has been largely omitted from this production where Venice goes to war with Turkey over Cyprus, and the staging revolves (literally) around a pool table upon which much of the key action occurs.

The acting is without fault, with a particularly menacing Iago and a delightfully chavvy Desdemona standing out from an excellent cast. Don't be put off by the slightly scary fact that Frantic are exponents of "movement theatre" - all this means in practice is that the choreographed fight scenes are stunning, and that the energy of the performance never flags.

If you get a chance to see this production, then do: I can offer no better praise than that the theatre was pretty much filled with sixth form students (some of them mine) and they remained transfixed for the whole two hours - a feat never achieved by any of my lessons.

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