The cast of Othello navigate both the emotional landscape of the play and of the physical landscape of the Pop-Up Globe space extraordinarily well. Despite the tone of the material, they strike up an easy rapport with the audience, essentially asking that we bear witness to the tragedy that will unfold.
Haakon Smestad plays an unapologetically bitter and cruel Iago, driven to push Othello into a jealous-fuelled fugue state until he loses his mind. By the end of the play, when all of Iago’s dark methods are laid bare, the show takes the final logical step and literally shows Iago ‘descending’ into hell in a spectacular postscript.
Iago compares the jealous feelings he seeds in Othello to delivering a poison. Indeed, one of the many terrific features of Regan’s Taylor’s performance as Othello is the decision to manifest that jealousy in his body as if it were acting as a literal poison – twisting and deforming his once stoic body.
Even as Othello’s madness degrades from the psychological to becoming physically violent and eventually homicidal, there’s a grace to how Regan conducts himself on stage. Regardless of all the unreality in and out of the play, there’s a human being at the story’s centre that Regan inhabits effortlessly, even more impressive knowing he can only do so after months of collaboration and bloody hard work; it’s a privilege to watch.
Even as the story narrows down on its key players of Othello, Iago, Desdemona, and her aide, Emilia (played wonderfully by Jasmine Blackborow and Roimata Fox respectively), the show never turns in on itself. The audience are never forgotten about, just as Jasmine and Roimata give wonderful performances (Roimata’s tirade in Te Reo was a particular highlight) to keep a nice balance in ensuring their characters aren’t overshadowed by other players, but also not overshadowing others themselves when the histrionics begin in earnest near the end.
Director Ben Naylor and his team have made something brilliant and unique: a classic-yet-tragic tale of betrayal, jealously and bloody revenge that’s a joy to watch. Get to it!
Pop Up Globe – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Linlithgow Avenue, Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 25 November 2017 – 8.00pm
Season currently playing to 3 February 2018
Information and Bookings: www.popupglobe.com.au
Image: Pop Up Globe’s Othello (supplied)
Review: David Collins