BOGOF Shakespeare: Othellomacbeth Is A Bold But Mismatched Mash-Up Of The Bard's Works

Othellomacbeth, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith ★★★☆☆

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BOGOF Shakespeare: Othellomacbeth Is A Bold But Mismatched Mash-Up Of The Bard's Works Othellomacbeth, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith 3
Othellomacbeth, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith: theatre review
Photo: Helen Murray

Plays for poor theatre: in Brexit Britain, once we’re reduced to eating rats while clutching our blue passports, a Shakespeare mashup may seem like a doubly good idea — patriotic and economical. Much like Brexit, Othellomacbeth still needs a bit of work.

For a start, we’d hoped they might try to combine the plays through intertextualism, or a Shakespeare universe crossover for Whovian millennials. They didn’t of course.  Kirsten Foster plays the Moor’s doomed lover in petulant child mode — Violet Elizabeth Bott, or Marlene Marlene Queen of Mean according to your age — which only modulates slightly when she takes over as a witch in act II, while Ery Nzaramba, at first a breezy, sexy, insouciant Othello morphs into something out of Scooby Doo as Banquo’s Ghost.

Othellomacbeth, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith: theatre review
Photo: Helen Murray

Compacting the plays into two hours means sacrifices. Character development in Othello and the delicious slow brew of violence into insanity in the Scottish Play are both casualties. In exchange, we get a lot of messaging — and the killings of Desdemona and Emilia make rich pickings for the #MeToo age.

There are some definite highs: the entr’acte and witches are atmospherically staged, and escape some of the me-too of a different sort that threatens to overwhelm elsewhere. Tonight’s Shouting Shakespeare Award goes to Sandy Grierson for both Cassio and Macbeth — energetic but unhinged as both.

Othellomacbeth, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith: theatre review
Photo: Helen Murray

There’s a definite lift towards the end of act I — not just because director Jude Christian gutted the best lines but because of Caroline Faber’s Lady Macbeth reimagined as Rizzo in Grease, an all-round good time girl who gets things done.

It’s breezy, it’s bold. It’s also a Venetian fritto misto with a side of Haggis.

Othellomacbeth, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. Tickets £10-42, until 3 November 2018. 

Review by Gloria Trubshaw.

Last Updated 11 October 2018