Dan and Giles saw Chicago-based Q Brothers' rap production of Othello.
GILES AND DAN: Alright, everybody hands in the air. The Globe is rammed. The only one not here is the sun. Fuck him. There’s a DJ up on the balcony spinning out tunes from back in the day and the skinny white boys are nodding, pint on the end of one arm, girlfriend at the end of the other. People are ready for this one. Q Brothers. These bad boys have come over from Chicago. Othello. The only production performed in English I believe. Four guys. No ladies. Should be interesting. All we know is that the crowd is pumped up. This could go either way. Shitsville or the bomb. Whoever’s made the selections for companies and productions has been spot on so far, so as the show nears its start hopes are high.
They always say - “Shakespeare, it’s just like rap… in a way.” Some professor will say that when a camera’s in front of him and he needs to get across how timeless and relevant Shakespeare is. But what does he know? That idea does rap and Shakespeare a disservice. Rap is rap. Shakespeare is Shakespeare. It’s like saying Shakespeare’s like Bob Dylan. Well yeah they both are masters of words, rhyme, rhythm, imagery, but so was Dr Seuss.
If the Q Brothers had said Shakespeare is like rap I would believe them however. Because after seeing their performance tonight it’s clear that they’ve done their homework. And brought it out on stage.
They didn’t use Shakespeare’s text. Reinterpreted the lot - which you
could argue made their job easier but that would be wrong. The DJ
mixed breaks the whole time and as soon as they hit the stage the boys
started rapping. Telling and selling the story of Othello and Iago and
Cassio three rapper friends who hit the big time and combust.
Though they didn’t use Shakespeare’s words they followed the story line for line, scene for scene. Desdemona was never seen. Othello stood centre stage, looked way up over our heads and heard her (like us) singing way off, like an angel. Rapunzel-like. Great idea. We never saw her. Just heard her. Almost as if to say that’s how Othello experiences her. On a pedestal too high to really reach. No one else must be able to touch or behold her - but ahh that means he won't be able to reach her either. He’s placed her on a pedestal too high and that’s his problem. What else can she be but human? He’s faced with this fact and he crumbles.
Is Othello his first name or second name? He’s a general, they can't go around calling him by his first name surely. There’s Lady Macbeth so that must be the surname. Hamlet is without doubt the first name of the prince and the old king. But Othello? Hmm, answers on a postcard.
The best thing we’ve seen here. It was funny. There are few characters in all Shakespeare that are as funny as Iago. He and Roderigo are a double act supreme. Q Brothers managed to retain all that. And as ever, what’s funnier than a man in a dress? Two men in two dresses. They didn’t play it cheap though. There was a lot of love in their work. They knew what story they were there to tell and they told it with barely a pause to take a breath. Eminem don’t rap for two hours solid, straight through. Q Brothers didn’t drop a beat. Well one or two, but we didn’t hate them for it. Opposite, it made us see how real they were.
How well they picked the beat up. It kept us hooked, as they jumped and danced and flipped and spun and switched and told us how it was. I’ve never seen a murder of Desdemona so beautifully thought out and staged and heart breaking. rue to their style. Anyone who saw it will know what I mean. The man smothers a Desdemona, who we still couldn’t see- but he could and as the cushion came down over her face the music muffled, like if you put a cushion over a speaker. Jerked the pillow off her face and the music blared out once more. Then DOWN, smothering her face again: music muffled. And so on until she was dead and no more. And then what were we left with..? Othello, the only thing there living. She was gone. We felt for her, though she was never even there. That’s theatre.
Wanna see them do Hamlet or Macbeth. Sweet.