Tuesday 27 November 2007

Not What I Am- Othello Retold, 11th Hour, Nov 27, 2007

 Not What I Am- Othello Retold 
 adapted from William Shakespeare, by The Eleventh Hour
11th Hour, 170 Leicester St, Fitzroy, Nov 27 to  Dec 6, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

This interpretation of Othello by The Eleventh Hour is a radical reworking and editing of Shakespeare’s play. Although Iago  (David Tredinnick) remains the primary source of Othello’s (Rodney Afif) escalating doubt and jealousy about his young bride Desdemona (Shelly Lauman), other voices share Iago’s dialogue.

A chorus of cloaked and faceless characters based on the mediaeval charavari (a noisy public humiliation of newly weds), chant and echo, represent a disapproving Venetian community that wants to destabilise the powerful outsider, Othello the Moor. This chorus effectively shares Iago’s destructive and insidious dialogue about lust, revenge, pride and hate.

This retelling is in the most part effective and resonant. The production is atmospheric, intimate and soaked in danger and intrigue. The chorus assists Iago to engineer Othello’s downfall. They creep like a Venetian fog, insinuating their way into Othello’s addled mind and his bedchamber.

This is a sexually charged interpretation of the play. Iago and Amelia (Jane Nolan) writhe and moan in lurid sexual poses, Cassio (Stuart Orr) and Roderigo (Greg Ulfan) wrestle and claw each other while Othello and Desdemona are entwined in lovemaking.

Afif gives his Middle Eastern Moor strength and arrogance. However the dynamic development of his Othello’s fraught emotional journey seems unbalanced, reaching a pitch too early with nowhere to go. Tredinnick simpering, fawning and leering Iago will make your flesh crawl and Nolan’s Amelia is a powerhouse of menacing lust. Her delivery of Shakespeare’s dialogue is particularly potent.

Orr’s Cassio is a raffish fop an Ulfan plays the lovelorn Roderigo with whining histrionics. Lauman’s Desdemona feels like a modern teenager, which clashes at times with the ominous and mediaeval tone of the production.

A dim, golden light (Nik Pajanti) penetrates the delicate, Moorish patterns of the wooden-framed set design (Julie Renton) and bathes the marriage bed, the site of love and murder in filtered morning light. Chanting and an evocative soundscape (Wally Gunn) accentuate the haunting atmosphere.

Anne Thompson’s production isolates Othello, highlighting his “otherness” in a mono-cultural Venice and making him as much a victim of circumstances and politics as Desdemona. The physicality of the performances gives the play a visceral quality not usually present in productions that focus on the words alone.

By Kate Herbert

Tuesday 6 November 2007

John Howard’s Farewell Party, Rod Quantock, Nov 6, 2007

John Howard’s Farewell Party 
by Rod Quantock
Trades Hall, until Nov 10, 2007

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Nov 6, 2007

Rod Quantock is getting in early before the federal election results with his new political comedy show, John Howard’s Farewell Party. 

The show is a roast, perhaps even a vivisection, of our possibly outgoing Prime Minister. Quantock might be hoping for a change of government but he regrets the loss of the ceaseless comic potential of the man who power walks like a wombat on two legs.

Quantock greets us individually at the door and invites us to sign a giant farewell card for John Howard. Everybody writes cheerful, cynical messages.

With supreme irony, the party takes place in the Trades Hall, the bastion of the Victoria union movement. The genuinely ugly Old Council Chambers has a shabby, embarrassed retirement party look to it with tinselly farewell banners, strings of cheap party lights and a wall of sensationalist front page headlines arrayed behind Quantock on the stage.

Quantock rambles around hilariously inside his own mind, quipping that perhaps he should have a plan, (all too predictable for him), jotting down reminders for later, scribbling lists of Howard’s sins on a white board and venting his rage at Howard’s government.

Even if you are a Howard supporter, his material is very funny. Political satire plays no favourites. Kevin Rudd gets a serve (“No world leader has ever been called Kevin”), Kim Beasley is dismissed (“Only North Koreans would vote for a man called Kim”) and Mark Latham – well, we all remember his special breed of political madness. But Quantock vents most of his spleen on the little man himself. He conjures all sorts of fates for him including beating him with Alexander Downer.

Quantock creates ridiculous and funny arguments from unrelated topics. He convinces us that Big Brother really is watching and that the information age will eventually control our lives right down to our fridges and toilets. He questions the notions of free market and democracy and reminds us about the government’s absurd cardboard fridge magnet about terrorism.

The topics of satirical observation are far ranging but some of the greatest jokes come from actual letter to the editor from the Adelaide Advertiser. There’s nothing like a genuinely confused argument from a bigot for a laugh.

So if you are hoping for an election defeat but presume the polls are just wrong again, celebrate early with Rod – and commiserate later.

By Kate Herbert