Othello: Remixed director Darren Raymond is in the Omnibus Theatre hot seat. Here we quiz him about his unapologetic re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Othello.
OMNIBUS THEATRE: What was your first introduction to Shakespeare?
DARREN RAYMOND: At school and it was Macbeth. That’s all I can remember. I don’t recall anything else about the lesson or the play. I probably walked out of the lesson and didn’t come back. My second introduction was in a drama workshop and it was Othello. I was 21, in a different space mentally and so the text we explored really connected with me. I was going through a tough stage in my life and here was a character who was also going through a tough time. The text has every reason to not to work with men with troubled backgrounds – living in a society and country that had failed us and in which we had failed ourselves. But it seemed to connect with me personally and I then wanted to find out more about myself and the world in which I was living in.
OT: What are you most looking forward to about staging this production?
DR: I’m really looking forward to unpicking this story again. It will be interesting to explore Iago’s motivation for what he does. Is he the personification of evil? I believe we are all born good and for me it’s always interesting to pick Iago’s mind. I’m not sure that being overlooked by Othello was his reason. Maybe it was. Shakespeare doesn’t tell us. There is a backstory, and in this production, we have the licence to create and show that. I don’t want people to walk away thinking Iago is bad for no reason. I feel that as artists, we have a responsibility to search for the source of pain that drives Iago to destruction. I can’t wait to have those conversations with the cast.
OT: What do you think about the current crop of Shakespeare adaptations?
DR: I’m always interested in the adaptation of classics, particularly Shakespeare. It’s exciting when people are able to tell old stories anew. I always say Shakespeare pays the bills of a lot of people and a particular type of ‘people’ from a certain type of privilege – for a very long time. But he is the birth right of us all, of this nation, not just for a select few. We are all entitled to tell that work. It is really exciting when artists feel they can be brave and give us their interpretation of that story. There is no right and wrong with Shakespeare. The work is very much open to interpretation and that is what I love.
OT: What are the challenges of adapting the text?
DR: The challenge is finding the balance in the language, the old and the new. I don’t want there to be chunks of Shakespeare and chunks of contemporary language. It needs to feel like one voice.
OT: Why should someone who has never seen Shakespeare before or been to a theatre come to see this production.
DR: It’s unapologetic theatre. Theatre that certain sections of society haven’t been allowed to see or been exposed to, for whatever reason. But now we are in an age when it is rightly seen as a national crime that different voices have been silenced for too long and haven’t been heard. This cast and adaptation address this on many different levels. For example, by the characters portrayed, the BME casting from working class backgrounds who haven’t been brought up in the theatre. This production will have a completely new voice and be a new experience for some people. I hope Othello: Remixed is going to challenge expectations for the good, that new audiences will see it as something for them.
OT: Who out there is lighting your fire on stage?
DR: I’m looking forward to seeing Death of a Salesman. I’ve got high expectations for the Young Vic.
OT: What other projects have you got on the boil?
DR: I’m currently working with 40 young people in our Youth Theatre, our 10-month programme of mentoring and theatre. We’ll be devising a Shakespeare play, which will culminate in a staging in November this year. This particular group have really been thrown in at the deep end. They’ve just taken part in Shakespeare Within the Abbey and Shakespeare Walks, part of the Globe’s Shakespeare birthday celebrations last month. I’m now mulling over three options for their final play. It’s between Hamlet, Measure for Measure and, because they’ve had so many experiences with different Shakespeare pieces already, I’m thinking a Shakespeare mashup!
OTHELLO: REMIXED will be at Omnibus Theatre from 25 Jun – 14 Jul – get tickets HERE→