7-31 August (ex.17) 17.45
Othello from Iago’s perspective: the vision of its playwright tossed aside, with one of the world’s most fascinating villains left to run amok? Good on you, Louise Hill, you genius!
Lose the whiter-than-white Desda-MOAN-a (see what I did there?), Cassio’s just a stuffed-shirt! Who needs decency, dignity and goodness, when you can have the unseemly, the sexy and the vulgar?!
Whether you see it as bravery or out-and-out blasphemy, it is undoubtedly fascinating to see Shakespeare’s vision twisted by the warped perspective of one of his own creations (after all it’s probably in safer hands than some of the eegit directors out there… you know who you are, Tim Blake Nelson, a cocaine-addicted basketball player, I ask you). Pacing around the dank Cyprian cell, Iago pours his pestilence directly into the ear of the audience.
To achieve this you need an actor of true class. Bristol Shakespeare Festival Company must have wet themselves when Martin Aukland walked into the audition room. All repressed, bug-eyed intensity (complete with handily creepy scar), Aukland’s one-man portrayal of the play’s major dramatis personae is genius, a tour-de-force which alone makes this adaptation worthy of renown. Othello, “as loving his own pride and purposes,” becomes baboon-like, all rolling eyes and puffed up chest, pricked by a bombastic ego; Cassio, meanwhile, comes in for a particularly amusing line of flamboyant hand gestures. Yet the play never becomes a grotesque mockery. When subtly of emotion is required, he delivers it.
Can refocus unravel an enigma? By by-passing the dramatic equation of Othello verses Iago, and thus Shakespeare’s intellectual fascination with motifs of duality, can we come to a clearer understanding of the half – Iago’s motivations, unmuddied by comparison? Oddly, the answer is no. We can learn nothing more of Iago’s psyche or impulses because Louise Hill can proffer no more than what is contained in the original quarto. If anything, the insights we gain from this cut-and-paste are in reference to others. For one, having so little time with Othello, the evident inadequacy of the ‘proofs’ of his wife’s guilt strengthens the argument that a darker tune plays within the noble Moor.
In an industry dogged with ham-fisted attempts to ‘see a-new,’ Louise Hill reminds us that less can indeed be more.