Review: Frantic Assembly's Othello Live at Curve

Sat 1st November, 2014 @ 5:01pm by jackrichardson

Review: Frantic Assembly's Othello Live at Curve

Imposed over a backdrop of deep trance music tinged with Drum n’ Bass, darkness explodes into light as Frantic Assembly’s Othello bursts into existence. Highly choreographed and tight to the rhythmic thump of the accompaniment, the cast flaunt agility as they jump, fight, win and lose. This is Othello, a classic tragedy recounting love, jealousy, hatred and murder; yet, the context in Yorkshire, 2001. The venue: a pub called ‘The Cyrpus’.

Pool cues at the ready, the cast show dominance in a fight for ‘The Cyprus’ – Frantic Assembly’s pub culture nod to Othello’s own rule of Cyprus in Shakespeare's original. Here, as commotion gives way to calm, Iago (Steven Miller) takes lead, explaining at once his hatred for Othello (Mark Ebulue), the Moor captain, having been passed over for promotion.

The performance begins quickly, with the pace rarely giving way throughout. Moving seamlessly between dances, monologues and complex group scenes, Frantic Assembly’s Othello captivates modern audience by not only re-contextualising a classic story, but by delivering it convincingly and with almost tangible energy.

The skills of the entire cast ensure this. Each has a unique personality, standing out immediately. This helps in setting the story – each character has their part to play and even those who have seen Othello performed many times would find interest in the dynamic relationship between this group of ‘soldiers’ and the pub in which they frequent.

Yet ‘The Cyprus’ is not all that is offered here. The stage, set initially as the disheveled pub, is constantly changing. The walls of the pub shift like a wave, at one point capturing Cassio in his inebriation as he rolls across them. Often the walls transform to progress the story. Slowly but surely, the walls set down closer, tightening the space of the pub, perhaps symbolic of Othello’s mind as jealousy takes control. The corner of the room often bursts open as important thematic actions are played out outside of the pub itself, whilst the walls give way entirely to give the carpark where Rodrigo’s (Richard James-Neale) attempted murder of Cassio (Ryan Fletcher) is played out.

Interestingly, there is almost non-stop musical accompaniment throughout the performance. Whilst used in dance scenes, as well as in well-timed breakaways, the soundtrack of music muffled from distant cars always lingers. It feels like never is there a moment for rest or reflection without the pulsing beat of early-Naughties Trance.

As the intensity of the performance increases, Desdemona (Kirsty Oswald), Emilia (Leila Crerar) and Cassio really shine, portraying all manner of emotion with the deftness and passion that Shakespeare demands. Underpinned by the complex relationship between Othello and Iago, who weaves the story from start to finish, the entire performance leaves one affected. Especially as the final moment comes – where, upon a pool table, Othello strangles Desdemona, unable to control the hatred created falsely by jealousy. The audience lay agasp, unable to intervene in this passionate scene.

Frantic Assembly’s Othello is a stunning modern adaptation of perhaps the world’s most loved tragedy. With the combination of a pub context and Shakespearean English never appearing to be anything but normal, audiences find themselves gripped as a story so well-known plays itself out in a new light. A wonderful performance well worth seeing again.

Frantic Assembly’s Othello ran at Curve Theatre 28 October - 1 November.

To read more about Frantic Assembly, visit
To find out more about upcoming performances at Curve, visit
Find Curve on Twitter @CurveLeicester



Dan Lamoon (danlamoon)


When last night, a good show, shameless meets shakesphere

  • Sun 2nd November, 2014

Leave a comment