Review by Natalie Low
Do you have to be familiar of Othello to understand this play? Probably not. In an imagining of post-Othello (the Shakespearean tragedy), Othello and Iago find themselves living in a perpetual hell, forced to relive the most painful memories of Othello killing his love Desdemona based on a rumoured affair reported by his second-in-command Iago.
This Korean adaptation is filled with lots of lighting changes, and lots of movement. The set is striking – filled with ladders of varying shades of brown and white, brown ropes, and white handkerchiefs tied all around. It looks like it’s made to slightly resemble a boxing ring of sorts. At the back sits this iron wall that is well silhouetted and subtle in the background to begin with. It’s a clever set – as it is done well enough to be able to transform into whatever it needs to fit the play. It’s movable enough to create a large cage and it’s climbable. It provides a large enough playing area for the actors to do their stunt work around in the middle and on the set.
The lighting sets the mood immediately as you walk in – with stark pillars of white, and reds and blues shining on the set. Throughout the show, the lighting changes are necessary for audiences to understand if the characters are in a nightmare or not. The lighting and sound design go extremely well together – with beautiful and dramatic orchestral music playing throughout the show. Subtle lighting changes or even fast-paced sudden ones, all shift and set the tone extremely well, and elevates the mood of not just the story happening onstage, but also for the audience. There are some moments that feel a little too on-the-nose at times. For example, when we first hear Desdemona speak – Othello’s ex-lover who died tragically in his hands, the lighting is pink, and the music is reminiscent of springtime. It feels expected and returns again each time Desdemona is back onstage.
Being an original imagining, the writing is clearly focused on journeys of Othello and Iago. There is quite little to no character development for Desdemona, mainly because she only ever really appears to aid in pushing Othello more towards madness. The actor playing Desdemona is charming, but with the little time she has onstage, there’s not really much emotional connection to this character – and so when we watch her die (it’s not a spoiler if it was written in the 1800s right?), we know it’s coming but there’s still not a huge amount of grieving to be had for her. The actors of Othello and Iago on the other hand are quite well fleshed out and you actively follow along as you watch Othello spiral more and more in his own paranoia, and Iago gaining more confidence in his ability to manipulate Othello when he needs to.
The show throughout is paced out quite nicely. There are great intense fast moments with wonderful and captivating choreography, and some nice slow moments for the audience to gather their thoughts and take a breather as they follow along. This story, like its source of inspiration, is a tragedy through and through, and when you get to the end, you understand the meaning of the title of the show. A fun and interesting take on this Shakespearean tragedy, it’s entertaining and haunting.
This show is performed in Korean with English subtitles. They have 3 sets of cast that rotate through their time here at the Adelaide Fringe.