Shakespeare isn’t dead – the team at HOME are proof that his work is still relevant

September 22, 2018

There’s something about Shakespeare that makes people feel uneasy. Maybe it’s the language or the throwback to high school English, but traditionally, it’s a huge challenge to make Shakespeare’s plays feel relevant. Reimaginings of traditional works have been huge over the past few years’, from the popularity of BBC’s Sherlock to ‘Going Bovine’ by Libba Bray, which is a darkly comedic retelling of Don Quixote, modern adaptations have more power than ever before.

Bianca (Kezrena James) opened Jude Christian’s Othello singing “Ain’t it always about a man,” and on this occasion, she was wrong. In this reimagining of (historically), two of UK’s most famous plays were adapted to ensure that female characters remain firmly in the limelight. The performance kicked off with Othello.

To those that sat GCSE English, the story of Othello is nothing new, we watch Othello’s jealousy of his wife, Desdemona’s, friendship with Cassio, and over a handkerchief, Othello murders his wife in a jealous rage. With a 20th century eye, the women in the performance who are forced to pander to Othello and Cassio’s jealousy and temper is galling. However it plays out beautifully, and there is an incredible moment where the three women in Othello, two murdered, one abandoned, come together to become the three witches of Macbeth.

What followed was a simplified version of Macbeth, and it’s no mean feat taking a complex and well-known play, and boiling it down to the key themes. Played out in a black box, nothing detracted from the performances on stage. I also really enjoyed Sandy Grierson’s Macbeth, performed with the right amount of passion and quiet insanity, it was a joy to watch.

Credit should also go to Melissa Johns, who brought a comedic light to her scenes, as well as Kristen Foster, who stole almost every scene she stepped into.

Jude Christian’s take on Shakespeare was a triumph and more importantly, it was a stark reminder of male violence and the real victim’s of tragedy in Shakespeare’s works.

othellomacbeth is at Home, Manchester, until 29 September, and at the Lyric Hammersmith, London, 5 October–3 November

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2 Comments

  • Bec Jones

    I saw this play last weekend – Othello is my favourite Shakespeare play and I’ve seen it many times over the years with the emphasis on insanity, jealousy and/or anger. I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling with quite rightly Desdemona and Bianca as much more sassy and strong.
    I loved the way the play merged to Macbeth – and your right Sandy Grierson as Macbeth was excellent as was Caroline Faber as Lady Macbeth.
    however, I thought it was trickier if you didn’t know this play well… but overall I thought this was a powerful and interesting take on age old themes. I hope it has a long run in London.

    September 23, 2018 at 11:27 am Reply
  • Anca

    Sounds very interesting. Nice to see the plays are in Manchester too, but sadly I don’t have time right now to go. It’s a shame though.

    September 23, 2018 at 1:38 pm Reply
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