Photo credit: http://globetoglobe.shakespearesglobe.com/plays/othello/english-93
Cut and pasted from the Globe to Globe Website:
Q Brothers, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Richard Jordan Productions
A fresh urban take on Shakespeare's tragedy spun out, smashed up and lyrically rewritten over original beats. The Q Brothers are America's leading re-interpreters of Shakespeare through hip hop. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is dedicated to creating and producing classic productions that unlock Shakespeare's work for audiences from all walks of life.
OMG - I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS!
This production had one key advantage over all the other productions I am seeing as part of the Globe to Globe Season and that is that it was in English. So this was the one production where I could understand the language. Although it was in English, the production did not use any of Shakespeare's language, it used urban hip hop rhymes (a tribute to iambic pentameter!).
The other advantage that this production had (although this could have been a major disadvantage if the production had been no good!) was that I love Othello the play to the point of obsession. It is one of my top three Shakespeare plays (the others being The Merchant of Venice and The Tempest). I know the story back to front, and inside out.
The production had been relocated. Othello, Cassio and Iago were not soldiers, but hip hop artists, and it was set in the US. There were only four actors (see image below) plus a DJ on the balcony above. There was no Desdemona (shock horror!). This sounds stupid but it really worked; Desdemona was represented by a soulful singing voice which often emanated from the rooftops. Emilia (Iago's wife) and Bianca (Cassio's mistress) were however both in the production, played by men. This really worked too.
Photo credit: http://sergeyelkin.blogspot.co.uk/2012_04_01_archive.html
So what did I love about the production?
- The fact that although they had relocated the story to a different world (entertainment not military) and a different geography (the US), the production stayed 100% faithful to Shakespeare's plot and storyline
- The fact that it was just 4 actors and a DJ
- The acting - all four actors were exceptional and played all the parts with 100% commitment and confidence
- The music and the hip hop rhyme - the whole production was done in hip hop rhymes, no words were spoken
- The energy and pace of the production - very early on the actors asked the audience to put their hands in the air and well over 95% of the audience did so and joined in with the rap
- To have Desdemona not represented in the production was unique and unusual; it sounds stupid but it worked like a dream; I love it when companies try something completely new and off the wall with Shakespeare; this really worked!
- The men playing women were superb, a stroke of genius
- The fact that you could use a production like this to introduce young people to the genius of Shakespeare and show them that Shakespeare's stories are excellent and that what Shakespeare has to say is still relevant to their lives today.
Overall, this has been my favourite production of the Globe to Globe Season so far, although this could be because they had the distinct advantage of this being played in English! It was also urban, gritty, real, and youth!