Sign up for our weekly newsletter

othellomacbeth

William Shakespeare
Lyric Hammersmith and HOME
Lyric Hammersmith
to

If Shakespeare's great tragedies might be compared in their depth, length and complexity to Test Matches, these short, sharp, glitzy renderings are the stage equivalent to Twenty20 games.

In little more than an hour each, Jude Christian's stagings are ultra-modern and play fast and loose with the original material, not always for the better.

Othello

Played out in a narrow space in front of a steel backdrop, this version of Othello lacks nuance and subtlety. The poetry too disappears for the most part as the dramas are condensed down to action, action, action.

In the early scenes, Ery Mazaramba's Othello and Kirsten Foster playing Desdemona can barely keep their hands off each other.

However, it takes minimal scheming from Samuel Collings as Iago, evil from the start, which robs the play of much intrigue, for the Moor to turn against his wife on the basis of a charge so obviously trumped up that is hard to imagine how anybody could have been taken in.

The style tends to be cinematic with very short scenes and constant jump cuts, robbing the piece of any sense of cohesion. As such, the 70 minutes move inexorably towards a tragic ending, rarely breaking for breath.

Compounding doubts about the removal of so much that the original writer deemed valuable, the cast is so short-handed that vital scenes have to be cut or changed.

Indeed, while this evening is credited to William Shakespeare, certain scenes and speeches seem to have been adapted by a more modern pen or computer.

Macbeth

On another spare stage, Macbeth fares rather better, with considerably more of the story and the characters' motivations coming through. Once again, the action trumps the characterisation, which is generally the point of these plays.

In the title role, Sandy Grierson is a violent aspirant to kingship who does his own dirty work with a much-wielded pistol, bringing to mind a vicious movie gangster on the rampage.

Caroline Faber is a powerful Lady Macbeth, eventually succumbing to quite fearful madness and unexpectedly purloining some inappropriate lines about Desdemona (who loses out as a result) to ennoble her demise.

Before that, the evening's high points come in conversations between these two both as they greedily plan and then justify the murder of a King.

This experiment is presumably directed towards a young audience with little or no knowledge of the originals. Such viewers are likely to enjoy the experience considerably more than those steeped in Shakespearean tradition.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher