Othello' is possibly the most problematic of Shakespeare's plays and Iago its most problematic character.
Iago's motives for betraying his commander shift and change as the play progresses, but never quite find a wholly believable focus for the bile he continually spouts. If ‘Othello' were a musical one feels it would have to include a song with the chorus line ‘How do you solve a problem called Iago?'.
Levity aside, this is surely one of the most difficult characters in the canon to find motivation for.
So full marks to Louise Hill and her admirable team for taking on the Moor's more than dubious side-kick and giving him a fascinating and terrifying hour on stage to explore the many shadows of his character.
Martin Aukland makes the most of the time available, filling out Iago's contradictions and playing Othello, Cassio, Roderigo, Emilia and Bianca in addition. Hill's adaptation of Shakespeare's text places Iago firmly at the centre of the action, and Aukland ensures we never lose the plot or the focus of Hill's play.
His is a particularly demanding role, even in the context of the one person play, but one he accomplishes with consistent ability.
Bristol Shakespeare Festival Company clearly have a commitment to not only presenting but also exploring the work, and are to be congratulated for doing so; Hill and Aukland's Iago brings this character from the shadows and into contact with our own deepest selves.
Both soundscape and lighting design add considerably to the experience, ensuring we are snared in a space deep and dark below Cyprus, locked away with an expansive monomaniac struggling to make sense of his own actions. In itself this is a considerable achievement.
Amongst the busy traffic of the Fringe, it's easy to miss the small gems companies and actors manage to produce on a yearly basis. This is one it's worth taking oneself away from the main thoroughfares to find.
Times: 7-31 August (not 17 Aug), 5.45pm
copyright Bill Dunlop 2009