Othello: The Remix Auckland Arts Festival Review

Othello: The Remix condenses the Bard’s story into 1hr 20mins of Hip hop, dance, rapping and song ,dusted with lots of humour, courtesy of the Q Brothers from Chicago. So how does this Hip hop performance portray the famous tragedy?

The show kicks off by asking the audience to ‘get ya hands up’ as the performers rap their way into this classic story. A DJ is on stage above the main cast, and spins beats throughout most of the show.

The story follows successful rapper, Othello,  who falls in love with Desdemona after hearing her beautiful singing voice.  This begins a twisted tale of love, betrayal, sexuality and violence. His friend Iargo starts a web of manipulation to destroy their relationship involving crew mate Cassio, and a love struck Roderigo – who just wants to be with Desdemona. 

It all moves very fast, well there’s a lot to cover. They power through the story with more humour that expected, even including a ‘Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’ reference when planting Cassio’s poisoned drink.  However, as the story darkened sentiment was cleverly turned around, even if they do manage some comedy death scenes.

All the cast wear simple overalls, using wigs, bandanas and hats to change characters. As is traditional with Shakespeare’s work, the men also play the female characters providing some big laughs, and one of the musical highlights  of the evening (more on that later). Performers even came and rapped amongst the audience, literally rubbing shoulders with the crowd.

There are classic Hip hop references entwined within the show: the Beastie Boys ‘mmm drop’, conniving Iago rapping in an Eminiem stylee and they even managed a ’99 problems’ joke.

Bringing the story to the world of Hip hop meant that Othello’s handkerchief was replaced by a gold chain. The script plays and teases with language all the way through, often threatening to say words and then backing out at the last minute. This innuendo was much to the amusement of the audience.

The whole cast donned wigs and hung gold dresses around their fronts for one of the highlights, a number where they sang  ‘it’s a man’s world. But he be nothin’ without a women or a girl’. This was received with enthusiastic whoops and cheers. And there was the quirky running joke of the record company CEO who made inappropriate references to tennis.

Excellent choreography meant that overall the play is great fun and well executed.

JQ as an Hispanic Bianca in a bright pink wig got lots of laughs with OTT actions and obsessive fangirling, and Jackson Doran stretches his talent outside of Cassio as the loving and caring wife of Iago.

Evil Iago is energetically played by GQ, and gives a standout performance throughout.

Postell Pringle played Othello with heart and passion, he really came into his own as he descended into despair and rage. 

A refreshing piece of theatre who’s fast pace, and smart script takes Shakespeare to a whole new audience.

A rappers delight that triumphs in tragedy.

Othello: The Remix is on at The Bruce Mason Centre 14-16 March and at Vodafone Events Centre on 18 March.

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