A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

Intermission Youth Theatre presents

 

Ring of Envy


 

Directed by Darren Raymond

 

Intermission Theatre - St Saviour’s Church

 

25 October – 17 November 2012

 

 

Set in a boxing ring with gym lockers, changing benches and red and blue corners, Ring of Envy, a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Othello, puts combat and character conflict at the productions’ heart. It is a neat metaphor. Director Darren Raymond uses boxing moves and terminology – both linguistic and physical, in his story about jealousy, auto-suggestion and machismo. Iago is the trainer and sparring partner of prize-fighter Othello, paving the way for Othello’s dependence on him and his subsequent susceptibility, as Iago fuels rumours about ‘Othello’s girl’ – Desdemona, and her infidelity with Cassio.

Ring of Envy, made up of twelve captioned scenes, sets up a central debate between the sexes, also, universal in any age. In the casual, sexual banter there is a real seriousness. The female ‘red’ company of Montana (Ronke Onipede) Bianca (Shonisha Brackett) and Emelia (Dominque Olowu) square up to Cassio (Tosin Cole ), Rico and Iago; each postures and struts like a brace of exotic birds.

Theatrically, the boxing ring is a focused, closed area. It offers intensity, intimacy and is a natural battleground between the victor and the vanquished. Raymond and his committed cast exploit this to the full. Action is in-the-round, unified by the two ‘Refs’ who take on Iago’s soliloquies as latter-day chorus figures. It is an effective distancing device. Sometimes clarity is lost as the play’s natural rhythms are distorted too much, however. Yet by and large Shakespeare’s text dips in and out with street-jive as effortlessly as a, b, c., while its’ soundtrack hints at the play’s overall themes - e.g. Backstabbers or Anyone Who Had a Heart, and sets up expectations in subsequent scenes.

Shakespeare’s theatrical devices – the letter, the handkerchief, are transmuted into suggestive text messages and the loss of Desdemona’s ring, given to her by Othello, which gives the action a modern context. Yet, in a sub-plot, Brabantio, Desdemona’s sister (a striking Elizabeth Lowall) is hostile to both lovers; there is no resolution to this sibling relationship within the production’s timeframe.

Rico (a Puckish Joshua Okusnya) in love with Desdemona, is gullible. A fool is soon parted from his money, and Iago exploits him mercilessly. Okusnya shows great physicality and timing, inciting Othello behind his back to ‘man the hell up.’ His antics are the production’s light to its shade. Yet with ‘my cause is hot’ and in the subsequent fight sequences he is pumped, ready to break the rudimentary banks of social hierarchy at the least provocation or misinterpretation. The energy from the cast at these flashpoints is electric.

In fact misinterpretation is a strong motif throughout. Brabantio’s mistaken accusations make way for Iago’s machinations, while Machisimo’s posturing, near the surface at all times, does the rest. Othello’s powerful address as an immigrant in Shakespeare’s play here becomes the pride of the fighter at the top of his game. While boxing’s competitive environment feeds envy; where many would like to see him fall.

Othello’s jealousy, symbolically realised by a green wash, leads to his final biblical incantation: ‘I want my revenge.’ The last scene between Desdemona (a feisty Jade Monet) and Othello (an imposing Dandave Roache) is very moving, while Iago (Baba Oyejide), a star in the making, is all the more sinister for his a-moral, yet beguiling, easy nature.

Intermission use Shakespeare ‘because he still speaks into the lives we live today.’ Yet there needs to be willingness to meet him halfway. This is where this company shines; commitment is a hundred per cent. Perhaps the best slogan of the night is this: forget Red Bull Intermission gives you wings…And who can argue with that?

 

Intermission Theatre
St Saviour’s Church
Walton Place,
London
SW3 1SA

Tickets:£12.00 (£8.00)
www.iyt.org.uk

Box Office: 020 7581 4620
 

 

 

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