Iago is Western Edge Youth Arts quintessentially Melbournian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello.
The short run currently at the Malthouse is the second iteration of the work after a rural tour in 2014. The team is almost identical to the previous run with writer Georgia Symons being brought on board to sharpen up the script. The show is an interesting adaptation of the well-known Shakespeare but is occasionally clunky, lacking drive and crying out for a strong directorial hand.
It’s quickly clear that Iago was built by an ensemble and not crafted with singular vision. Much of the show’s strengths come when the audience can see the ensemble as a whole and the physical language they clearly have is joyous to watch. However, the show never seems comfortable in its text and the performers seem to be constantly rushing to a place where they will no longer have to speak, as well as relying on large frantic physical actions to hide their discomfort. This led to a severe lack of clarity from almost all performers to the detriment of being able to follow what was happening in the play.
Rexson Semsi-Pelman’s performance as Othello could have been fantastic – he was engaging and affable right up until Othello’s big violent shift – but it became difficult to understand the text he was speaking due to poor enunciation and clarity. And he wa by no means the sole offender.
The standout performer of the piece was Oti Willoughby, who played Cassio and Brabent. His clear and precise performances as both characters were engaging and touching. He held the audience’s sympathies as Cassio and quickly lost them as the brash Brabent, but never let us get confused over which character he was playing.
The show lacked reason, which could have been solved with firmer direction from Dave Kelman. This was never more clear then in the want to give everyone a moment, leading to monologue after monologue of characters stepping forward out of the action to try and connect with the audience.
Ultimately Iago, while an interesting adaptation with plenty of promise, fell short of the mark.