Tag Archives: Gareth Fry




Lyric Hammersmith

OTHELLO at the Lyric Hammersmith



“Michael Akinsulire’s Othello is a commanding presence.”


We are in a rough suburban pub. It could be London, but more likely a Northern province; the accents give nothing away. But the accentuation of Shakespeare’s words crackles with a dynamic menace that propels us headlong into the ensuing tragedy. Beer bottles and baseball bats are the weapons of choice, a pool table is the battlefield. Frantic Assembly’s fierce retelling drags “Othello”, kicking and screaming, well and truly into the twenty-first century. The jealousy, revenge, paranoia and racism are brought so close to home you can practically smell the beer on the breath; and you’re not sure if you’re about to be kissed or killed.

The opening sequence sets the theme. The electronic duo, Hybrid, provides a throbbing soundtrack that epitomises the tensions. The pecking order is beautifully established in the staccato movement that is both balletic and thuggish. Purists look away – but these moments evocatively replace much of the text that Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett have sliced from the original.

Michael Akinsulire’s Othello is a commanding presence. A powerful gang leader but with a gullibility and vulnerability that Akinsulire manages to pull off without it clashing with, or weakening, his power. Chanel Waddock is a fiery and feral Desdemona, genuinely baffled by the injustices of her husband’s accusations. The performances are powerful, yet unafraid to expose the weaknesses inherent in the characters. Weaknesses that are exploited by Joe Layton’s distrustful and fearful Iago. Layton’s unflinching performance sets the standard and throws down the gauntlet for others to match. Which they do. This is a tight-knit gang who move, think, and speak as one body.

The themes of jealousy and revenge in “Othello” are inherently heightened and often difficult to infuse with realism. It works with these characters, that are dangerous and youthful; fuelled by cheap alcohol and seeming social deprivation. Laura Hopkins’ fluid set displays the grimy claustrophobia that funnels the raging emotions. We never escape the pub setting, except when the walls unfold to reveal the back alleys. At other times the walls shift, threatening to envelop the characters as they sink further into the crevasses of their consequences.

Slightly overwhelming, it is nevertheless thrilling. The key moments are highlighted while superfluity is banished. There is a fine balance between the electrifying physicality and the subtle discourse. The tragic finale comes across as a bit rushed, with a body count veering on the comical. The fault lies in the script: as with some of his other plays, the loose ends seem to be tied up with a deadline-defeating desperation. It’s a flaw the writer can surely iron out with experience though! But with a performance as strong as this, Frantic Assembly will undoubtedly help to ensure that Shakespeare’s work achieves the longevity it deserves.



Reviewed on 24th January 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Tristram Kenton



Other Shows recently reviewed by Jonathan:


The Sex Party | ★★★★ | Menier Chocolate Factory | November 2022
Top Hat | ★★★★ | The Mill at Sonning | November 2022
Bugsy Malone | ★★★★★ | Alexandra Palace | December 2022
Handel’s Messiah: The Live Experience | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Drury Lane | December 2022
Potted Panto | ★★★★★ | Apollo Theatre | December 2022
Rumpelstiltskin | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2022
The Midnight Snack | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | December 2022
Salt-Water Moon | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | January 2023
The Manny | ★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | January 2023
Wreckage | ★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | January 2023


Click here to read all our latest reviews


The Arrival


Bush Theatre

The Arrival

The Arrival

Bush Theatre

Reviewed – 26th November 2019



“a play with such vitality at every level that you can only leave the theatre out of breath”


A persuasive drama underlining the need to keep siblings together when adoption happens forms the heart of the authoritative The Arrival, receiving its world premiere at the Bush Theatre.

Better known for his hard-hitting direction of such plays as The Brothers Size, A Taste of Honey and Barber Shop Chronicles, Bijan Sheibani turns to writing with this debut one act play, which he also directs.

The confident writing is potent, the nuanced direction robust in this two-hander which takes the simple premise of English Iranian brothers meeting as adults for the first time after one was adopted as a child.

There is, of course, a sting in the tale: the stirring family reunion also opens up years of suspicion, hurt, devastating truths, tension and vulnerability. Questions about nature, nurture and masculinity come to the fore as the brothers, who are little more than strangers to each other, struggle to communicate though they initially get on.

The emotional depth of the encounter is played out in the round on a raised bare circular stage (designed by Samal Blak), which occasionally rotates, so attention is focussed on the lines and performances.

And the two performances perfectly bring the finely written script to life in a breathless succession of short and pithy scenes, meaningful episodes in the lives of two brothers joined together biologically yet worlds apart emotionally. Despite the attributes they share a key part of the play is wondering if they will ever be able to connect deeper down.

There are tense scenes when we witness the physical strength of the two brothers, through cycling, running and dancing though the younger brother is clearly the one less fit of the two, drawing other complexities to the surface.

Scott Karim’s Tom is the arrival of the title, a computer specialist who runs his own business. He is never quite able to shake off the gnawing sense of abandonment by his parents all those years ago, yet is eager to embrace his “new family.” Karim manages to balance the nervous energy of one excitedly rediscovering his past with the tragic realisation that those he left behind have lived their lives pretty happily without him.

On the other side is Irfan Shamji’s Samad, the younger brother who has to adjust to the new situation and who is far less enamoured by the thought of meeting a brother he barely knew about or his family. This brother has had far more opportunities in life (such as public school and a university education) yet is content in his publishing business and anxious about this possible interloper. He is far more uncertain of himself and wary of his brother, but he feels he has more to lose with a possible new rival to family affections.

The two actors dance around each other verbally and physically with a grace and purpose – no wonder there was a need for Aline David as movement director. It is like watching two sparring partners in a boxing ring, each with a reserved respect for the other but both knowing there will come a time to fight and win.

Even though less is more in this play the writing and performances are such that you want it to last longer. It could be argued that the exact reason for Tom’s adoption is never spelt out and this information would be helpful in a piece that often veers towards the enigmatic, but there isn’t really the time to worry about such omissions.

Sheibani’s skill is in taking the domestic crisis and holding up a mirror to a broader view of society and a world scared to explore emotions or be true to ourselves. The audience is left desperately wanting – perhaps even needing – the brothers to understand one another and re-form a part of their lives so sadly missing, but the cruel reality is that the future doesn’t look bright.

The Arrival is a confident and intelligent new work that once again shows off the Bush as a testing ground for fresh drama to be reckoned with. It is a play with such vitality at every level that you can only leave the theatre out of breath.

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Marc Brenner


The Arrival

Bush Theatre until 18th January


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Class | ★★★★ | May 2019
Strange Fruit | ★★★★ | June 2019
Rust | ★★★★ | July 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews