Othello, Lyric Hammersmith, London: Rank, Tricycle Theatre, London

A pub, a pool table but no poetry in this Othello
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The Independent Culture

When my cue comes, call me; Bottom's injunction has been adopted as a production note by Frantic Assembly for this blustery, bashed-about Othello set in a West Yorkshire pub with a pool table.

Desdemona (Claire-Louise Cordwell), the sluttish white barmaid with a broad Bradford accent, is well and truly potted, you might say. The Venetian senate are Tetley beer-drinking racist thugs on this green and pleasant baize, wielding their cues like scimitars and sneaking their pool balls into their own pockets.

The last of their summer whine is a racist attack on the local Turkish community. Then it's back for a spot of table action, with Iago setting up Othello for the last frame and Desdemona finding her game tactics lost in a stranglehold. It is all brilliantly done if you don't mind missing half the play, most of the poetry and all of the tragic splendour.

You can't complain that Jimmy Akingbola, as the street-fighting champion of organised thuggery in – where could we be, Leeds, Halifax, not Harrogate, surely? – misses the morbid magnificence of the last act. Every actor since Olivier has done that. Akingbola's chief bouncer has a restless, sulky presence and a shaven head with a cockatoo ridge. But he lacks lung power and verse-speaking virtuosity. It's easy for Charles Aitken's nasty Iago to walk – and dance – off with the acting honours.

Frantic's directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett leave too much of the play lying around for you not to care about missing the rest of it. Othello is the most brilliantly and tightly constructed of all the tragedies. Untune one string, and hark what discord follows. So we're left with a theatrical blast based on Othello, a commentary on its themes of jealousy, deception and the accidental discovery of a handkerchief.

Hybrid, the electronic dance specialists, provide a nice line in portentous sound walls that wash over the staging like huge surfs and pump up the impression of grandeur. Music, movement and above all, sexy attitude, create a kind of Shakespearean theatre that you won't find at the Globe or the RSC (not yet, anyway). And for some, many even, that's a bonus.

We're spoilt for technical excellence in the theatre these days, so it was a surprise to hear the audience buzz in the adjacent Tricycle cinema seeping through the taxi rank at Dublin Airport in Robert Massey's new play for the Irish company Fishamble. Excitement was running high, obviously, for the next screening of Quantum of Solace.

Except, wait: perhaps that ambiguous noise was meant to be the Dublin chatter itself. Same thing when the hapless cabbies George (Eamonn Hunt) and his fat son-in-law Carl (Alan King) dither in a field over the dropped bag from an armed robbery that's gone wrong. Were the ushers making mooing noises, or were there real cows out there?

At least we know we're in a field, and it's dark, because the lighting suddenly goes from undistinguished to indistinct, and the cheap-looking functional design is mercifully obscured by some creased blue drapes. The two stooges pick up the bag and scarper.

How we get to this point in the plot is not at all clear. But what Massey is after is a bumbling heist drama with a social analysis of the downside of the Dublin economic miracle. George has lost his drive to succeed in a cab, along with his will to live, and newly-widowed Carl is deeply in debt to the circle's boss man, Jackie Farrell, whom Bryan Murray plays slyly as a bullying smoothie-chops. He is hampered by a bird brain of a son Fred (Luke Griffin) and the complications of running a phone sex chat line and a nightclub protection racket.

The taxi rank has its own resident Russell Brand, too, in John Lynn's hairy lothario known as "Bush" who has lately seduced Fred's wife and is nearly sunk when an image of her bottom pops up on his mobile. He wriggles out of that only to find Jackie at his throat with a Stanley knife demanding to know where the money's gone. He's lucky; poor old Carl has his shins staved in with a cricket bat for no reason at all.

'Othello' to 22 November (0871 221 1722); 'Rank' to 29 November (020-7328 1000)

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