Tag Archives: Frantic Assembly

“Othello” at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

Frantic Assembly’s inimitable style gets great results in their acclaimed version of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Director Scott Graham’s production manages to please those who love the text and those new to it. A brisk, clear edit makes the play approachable, while the company’s dedication to physical theatre offers insight for those who have seen the play many times.

Famous moments are, mostly, present and correct. Omissions are interesting (Othello’s fit doesn’t happen) while the military setting is loosely applied. But themes of jealousy and revenge are presented with startling clarity. The brisk action creates momentum, while the poetry is still delivered with satisfying technique.

Michael Akinsulire

Michael Akinsulire takes the title role and gives a magnetic performance with plenty of threat that is careful to preserve the character’s intelligence. You believe Othello is a good leader and strategist despite the way he is manipulated. Akinsulire’s is a generous performance that benefits from the show highlighting other roles to great effect.

The three female roles of Bianca, Emilia and Desdemona are strengthened by strong performances from Hannah Sinclair Robinson, Kirsty Stuart and Chanel Waddock. Desdemona’s final scenes are distressing to watch but it seems preferable that all three women put up a fight (quite literally in Waddock’s case). Graham’s detailed work with Joe Layton’s laddish Iago is insightful – there’s less sense than usual that he enjoys his plotting, which makes him all the more frightening. As for the dupes Iago uses: Felipe Pacheco’s Rogrigo adds humour while Tom Gill’s scene as the drunken Cassio is brilliant.


The key to the success of Gill’s tricky Act Two Scene Three is movement. It isn’t just that the extended acrobatic dancing makes more sense of his inebriation than a glass or two of wine – who wouldn’t get dizzy – the machismo enacted creates the air of intoxication. The technique works superbly in scenes of violence as performers pose aggressively or weave around and over each other. And the choreography is also excellent for scenes of romance – this Othello is sexy.

For all this praise for those working hard on stage, the star of the show might be designer Laura Hopkins. Setting nearly all the action in a bar (you can almost feel the sticky floor) leads to the production’s memorable pool table, more leapt on and over than played upon. The walls, which concertina in and out, creating corners perfect for plotters, are used to fantastic effect. The combination of style with substance makes this production a winner.

Until 11 February 2023


Photos by Tristram Kenton

“Beautiful Burnout” at York Hall

Beautiful Burnout was inspired by a brief trip to a boxing gym. Entranced by the experience, its co-directors, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, set about examining the pugilistic sport and have created an immersive and powerful theatrical experience.

Touring to the York Hall in Bethnal Green, they have found a great venue for their highly theatrical production, they are perfectly at home in this well known boxing venue.

The text, written by Bryony Lavery, is unfortunately thin. Interactions between the trainee boxers, and their formidable coach, are underexplored and the play ends at its most interesting point. Lavery struggles to convince regarding the world of “freely shared opinions and self-promotion” that she has researched. Only the older characters truly convince. Ewan Stewart plays the trainer with great presence and Lorraine M McIntosh almost steals the show as one of the boxers’ mothers.

But when the boxers actually train and fight, you really want to go the full 12 rounds with them. A period of extensive training as part of rehearsals has left the cast glowing as they perform Graham and Hoggett’s intense choreography.

Unlike often superfluous instances of technology in the theatre, Ian William Galloway’s video design adds greatly to the drama. The combination of film and movement is fascinating, supporting tension and emphasising a beauty that can be seen in the sport. While Beautiful Burnout doesn’t quite achieve the complexity it aspires to, it contains some knockout moments of theatricality.

Until 2 October 2010

Beautiful Burnout at York Hall is presented by Frantic Assembly and the National Theatre of Scotland in association with the Barbican

Photo by Gavin Evans

Written 17 September 2010 for The London Magazine