Saturday 5 May 2012

The Q Brothers' 'Othello - the Remix' at the Globe Theatre - May 5, 2012.

(To get the effect of this, you really need to read it aloud - it doesn't work at all on the page.  Also note that, in the traditions of both hip-hop and Shakespeare, I claim the liberty to stress and elide words any way I damn well want to.)

Friends, Londoners, countrymen, knock me your lobes,
Othello - the Remix is rocking the Globe's
G2G season, and nobody should mind
That it's not foreign language as usually defined.
You could call it Ebonics but that still wouldn't be right,
As three out of four of these fellows are white
(Which needn't cause you any kind of a crisis -
They're more Marshall Matherses, less Vanilla Ices).
From the moment they enter, with cool finger clicks,
(That inevitably suggests an earlier kind of remix)
These guys have the Globe-goers glued to their seats
As they shake up the story to common-time beats.
They say it themselves, they're just doing what's
The thing Shakey did when he plundered his plots.
'Our own plagiarism is keeping it real;
Good artists borrow, the best artists steal'
(And iambic pentameter isn't much more
Than old-school hip-hop with five stresses, not four).
The story's the same, but they're making it sillier,
By setting it all in a music-biz milieu,
Among three touring rappers - Iago, Othello,
And Cassio, a pretty boy, Bieber-ish fellow
Who takes Iago's place higher up on the bill
Giving I. (as he sees it) a license to kill.
His insinuations split husband from wife,
Rapper from crew and a girl from her life.
He turns poor Othello from lover to slayer
By making him think his beloved's a playa.
Desdemona's unseen - it's the company's choice
That she's only a sample, a soul-diva's voice -
Which is all rather like - the coincidence is curious -
What another show did with Caesar (that's Julius).
In less than two hours, hardly pausing for breath,
They tell the whole story, from marriage to death.
There's lots of good jokes, and some times when you think
That they're going to swear, but come back from the brink.
Emilia and Bianca are played by the guys,
Which starts as a joke, then Emilia dies
And it all becomes moving, as the passage of time
Transforms the ridiculous to the sublime.
Pop culture, high culture, this has it all in
(There's even a quote from Tom Petty's 'Free Falling').
I say this with wonderment, not with disparagement -
This so easily could have been an embarrassment,
But they're truthful to both sides of the equation,
Shakespeareans and hip-hoppers get education,
And I'm not an expert (I mean, bloody hell,
The last rapper I saw was M.C. Melle Mel)
But I hope you can all understand what I mean
When I say forty-something felt like seventeen,
And as culture meets culture, it seems what we've got
Is the wooden O turned to Blue Mink's Melting Pot.
If you haven't got tickets, you've reason to curse;
This is poetry in motion - it's gone bard to verse.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not being funny, not pulling your chain,
    This rap review's just got stuck in my brain.