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REVIEW: Shakespeare’s Nigga


3.8/5 stars

Shakespeare’s Nigga is a modern, contemporary drama of Shakespeare by Joseph Jomo Pierre. The play features Othello, Aaron from Titus Andronicus, Tyrus who is an older slave, The Bard, and Shakespeare’s daughter, Judith on a Southern Plantain. The creator meets the iconic figures that he wrote and it is The Bard revamped. The play begins with the reader riveted into a dream.
I enjoyed the literary and script references that were used by the playwright. He effectively utilized the canon, plots, and Shakespeare’s famous sonnets in a unique way. He was successful in integrating some of Shakespeare’s stylistic features with ease while creating his own point of view. Similar to Shakespeare, there are monologues, sorcery, marriage and tragedy. He creates an ongoing tension throughout the play between Othello and Aaron. Othello is haunted by his former lover Desdemona.

The play had less detail than many plays I’ve read before with minimal setting and props. I understand that from Jomo Pierre’s perspective, it allows more creativity for the director to envision the play. Plays are ideally meant to be seen on a stage, rather than read for the full dramatic effect.

Although I understood the play and the context, I do believe that readers who have never read Othello or Titus Andronicus, may have some difficulty following the book. Readers will have a greater appreciation if they have read Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets prior to reading the contemporary version. They may not understand Aaron’s aggression or the reference to ‘The Dark Lady’. If they do understand, they may not grasp the references.

I really liked the new non-Shakespearian character, Tyrus, but I felt he was underutilized in the play. He has the most depth and provided advice to the other slaves. I wish he appeared in more scenes, especially in the beginning.

Of course, Jomo Pierre’s attempt is no comparison to The Bard himself, but he make a unique play with Shakespeare’s legacy. He was able to take compelling characters and place them in a new environment. If you are a Shakespeare fan, this play is worth a read. Shakespeare’s Niggaappeared at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace in Toronto this year.