Dorset theatre company SISATA present Shakespeare's Othello in a bold, bright and brilliant explosion of a performance in the all-new Sherling Studio on 12 & 13 May. In the second of her blogs, Othello's director Charmaine K Parkin tells us more about how the company conducted a week of research and development for the production ...
The R&D was used to play and explore ideas for my radical re-imagining of Shakespeare’s 'Othello' prior to rehearsals in April 2017. It culminated in a sharing with young people, industry peers and professionals to gain feedback to inform the show.
This was the first opportunity I have had to explore my practice through R&D, allowing time between development and full production both to let the artistic ideas and interdisciplinary material ferment and percolate, but also to give myself and the cast the opportunity to build a relationship with the Lighthouse and gain feedback from members of the industry and young people before the rehearsal period begins.
During the week the cast and I were brought together to test my adaptation to see how far the new context could inform its development. We were also able to gather promotional material and engage with our online audience through the activity and test it in front of an invited audience.
The feedback we received reiterated our aims for the piece and focus on the audience interaction, making it highly physical with movement and dance, interweaving the music as much a possible and incorporating the influence of Hip Hop speech rhythms into the delivery. Overall, this supported us to be as innovate as possible in integrating the 80s context into the piece.
My work through SISATA aims to bring engaging and interactive performances of classic stories accessibly to modern audiences, highlighting the timeless issues that are presented. SISATA will do this with ‘Othello’ by combining it with contemporary urban art forms and reaching the broadest possible audience.
The prime aim is to attract a younger audience both to my work and to performances of Shakespeare. Breaking the conventions of ‘traditional Shakespeare’ will appeal to younger audiences as this fresh context offers a bold, identifiable, colourful canvas to draw from for the design. It will also highlight the political and popular cultural parallels between now and then; addressing current anxieties of class division, religious extremism and immigration.
With the Home Office reporting a 41% increase in hate crimes after Brexit, I believe it is more important than ever to address this division, by re-imagining a well-known title that addresses these issues.
Inspiration will be drawn from the 1980s, hip hop culture and the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat; a street artist flung into the high profile art world, but never truly assimilated.
With all this in mind, workshops have been planned with practitioners in Spoken-word /Hip Hop, Dance/movement and African drumming to support this.
Anonymous feedback forms (see below) were given out to our invited audience and 100% of them said that it made them want to see the full show and 57% gave the sharing 4/5 out of 5 even at this stage.
We asked the audience at the 'Othello' R&D sharing to write three words to describe what they saw and what they liked most and with these we created the wordcloud below.
Local street artist Miroslav Lucan of Lucan Art, who will be collaborating with our set and costume designer, was also present during the sharing. He reported back to me that it was really helpful for him to see what we were developing before he starts designing and that it has influenced his ideas.
The exploration was documented and shared online to build interest and reach our target audience. The daily Vlog reached up to 800 people on Facebook.
Overall the experience allowed me to fully realise the direction for the production and have confidence to go into finalising the adaptation in time for rehearsals.
Although it was a vulnerable experience to invite people into the work in progress and document it daily, it allowed our audience to feel part of the process and development. It allowed them to have an open conversation and engage with my work at an early stage of development, which was very successful from the feedback and social media reach it made.