Re-Contextualization of Othello for a Contemporary Audience

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Othello is a Shakespearean tragedy involving the schemes and plots of the villainous Iago against the Moor, Othello, and his wife Desdemona. Frantic Assembly’s performance of Othello incorporates the dramatic languages and perspectives of Physical theatre, as well as heightened Realism, to effectively re-contextualize the play for a modern audience. The re-contextualized play is very successful whilst still being true to the original text, combining parts of the Shakespearean script with an array of music, dance and movement resulting in the creation of a unique contemporary physical theatre. The elements of drama, along with conventions of both physical and Elizabethan theatre, were used by Frantic Assembly to create a contemporary play from a heritage Shakespearean text that is relevant to a modern audience. Frantic Assembly has successfully re-contextualized Othello by transposing the time and setting to make it relevant to a twenty-first century audience whilst still retaining the original plot and a number of conventions of heightened Realism. The original setting of Othello has been creatively transposed from Venice to a grungy pub called ‘The Cyprus’ in England. Although the play has been placed into a completely different context, some Elizabethan conventions are still evident. Soliloquy is often used in Shakespearean text to allow the audience to know things that other characters in the play do not. A good example of the use of soliloquy in Frantic Assembly’s performance of Othello was when Iago explained to the audience his plan to ruin Othello: …And nothing can or shall content my soul

Till I am even'd with him, wife for wife,
Or failing so, yet that I put the Moor
At least into a jealousy so strong
That judgment cannot cure… (Shakespeare, DHFWJGFUWG)??
This soliloquy provided the audience with the knowledge that Iago was not as honest and noble as he appeared to be to the other characters in the play. This allowed the audience to foreshadow what was going to happen in the plot. Othello, like every Shakespearean tragedy, creates dramatic action by following the narrative structure: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Frantic Assembly, although having re-contextualized the play, have still utilised the narrative structure making for a fascinating and enthralling storyline that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. Whilst continuing the use of Shakespearean conventions, Frantic Assembly has fastidiously manipulated them in conjunction with the conventions of physical theatre to create a piece that will appeal to a contemporary audience. The style of physical theatre enhances the re-telling of Othello through the use of movement and other physical theatre conventions rather than language. Shakespearean language often proves difficult for a contemporary audience to understand. Therefore, by pursuing storytelling through primarily physical means, Frantic Assembly has effectively made the play more comprehensible to a modern audience. Rhythm is one of the physical theatre conventions that was used with great ingenuity in the re-contextualization of Othello. Frantic Assembly has chosen music with strong patterns that complement or contrast the natural rhythm of Shakespeare’s language (iambic pentameter), but at the same time the breakbeat element is suggestive of a modern, urban setting. The actors use their body in different ways according to the emotional state of their character or the atmosphere of the performance at a particular moment. The physical shape of their body creates a visual metaphor which, in turn, conveys dramatic meaning to the audience. An additional convention adhered to by Frantic Assembly is Anne Bogart’s viewpoints, which have contributed to the dramatic effect of the modernized Othello by assisting in conveying meaning to the audience. The viewpoints are used to allow the audience to see the stage as a moving, living, symbolic picture. Shape is a...
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