By Abigail King
“The story’s been told, but not quite like this…”
There’s no denying that in this day and age, Shakespeare is seen as an elite art form – beautiful but inaccessible. It’s easy to forget that the Bard was at the cutting edge of his generation, entertaining the educated and illiterate alike with works designed to appeal to the masses. Othello: The Remix may not be every theatre-goers cup of tea, but it’s clear from the moment one enters the auditorium that this is going to be Shakespeare like you’ve never seen before.
Commissioned by the Globe Theatre, The Q Brothers have created something far beyond the overdone trope of restaging of a classic in a modern setting- Othello: The Remix is a 90 minute rap opera where the words come thick and fast. On the surface it has the trappings of a typical Fringe production – set & costumes are minimal and all members of the cast switch between multiple characters with the help of a handful of props (co-writer JQ deserves particular mention for his dexterity, flicking between his roles with dizzying speed). Beneath the carefully cultivated rough veneer however, this is a slick production. The performers work with assurance to carry their audience through the tale of MC Othello and his crew, aided by some understated but extremely effective lighting design (Jesse Klug). The show takes place in the world of a hip hop label, days before the release of their latest album. When Othello chooses pretty-boy rapper Cassio over his long-time friend (but less commercially viable) Iago, the inevitable cogs are set in motion.
GQ’s Iago moves from overlooked underdog to scheming villain with the dark charisma required from such an iconic role, spitting out his words with almost tangible vile. Jackson Doran plays both his Cassio & Emilia with an adorable charm while Postell Pringle builds his Othello as a lovable leader, then navigates O’s landslide descent into a broken man with a dexterity that suggests a full-length ‘Classic’ Othello wouldn’t be far out of his reach. The four are ably backed by DJ Clayton Stamper, an ever-present figure on his raised scaffold at the back of the stage who somehow still manages to get in on some of the action.
While the comedy is laid on heavily, Othello: The Remix doesn’t shy away from the dark core of its source material. It takes skilled storytellers to bring an audience half-filled with restless high schoolers to breathless silence, but in the final moments you would be hard-pushed to tell if the audience was still breathing- I know I wasn’t.
Shakespeare has always been known for his rhythms, but in Othello: The Remix, the Bard has been cut up, chewed up & spit out into something that will hopefully open the doors to a new generation of theatre goers. If you missed them this time, cross your fingers that a return visit from The Q Brothers won’t be far away.
Othello: The Remix
Location: Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse
Photo: Arts Centre Melbourne