The raffish Iago, played Fiachra Fallon was portrayed as someone who was completely consumed by jealousy: ‘Doth like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards’. His language and manner were crass as he employed bestial language to describe miscegenation.
‘I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs. you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you'll have your nephews neigh to you’
He starting bucking like a horse and neighing, thus vitiating the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. This crassness of attitude was seen as Iago (Fallon) danced around the stage full of derision and scorn:
She’s a most exquisite lady.
And, I’ll warrant her, full of game.
Fallon danced around stage in a lascivious manner redolent of Johnny Castle from the film ‘Dirty Dancing’. Fallon portrayed the incendiary nature of Iago by overtly winking at Roderigo as he incites him to brawl with Cassio. Fallon’s tone of voice was key to his portrayal of Iago as evinced in Act 3 wherein he plants the seed of doubt in the noble mind of Othello.
Ha! I like not that…………..
Cassio, my lord! No, sure, I cannot think it,
That he would steal away so guilty-like,
Seeing you coming.
Othello is a tragedy and like all tragedies what we are witnessing is the tragic downfall of a noble hero. The vitiation of the noble Othello is a tragedy. Othello’s downfall very much appeals to our sense of hearing and hence the importance of language as Othello’s language reflects the crassitude of Iago’s.
It is only when you hear these words out loud that you can appreciate the clever chicanery of Iago as he embarks on a gradual process of erosion of Othello’s faith and trust in his wife. Iago invades the personal space of Othello (further evidence of his ensnarement of his soul perhaps) as he pours his ‘pestilence’ into the vulnerable Othello’s ear. He steadily chips away at Othello’s faith in his wife and thus succeeds in undermining their loving relationship. A somewhat confident Othello tells Iago that ‘I’ll see before I doubt’, then ‘I do not but think that Desdemona's honest”. He looks as the ‘Divine Desdemona’ and declares with anguish and doubt:
‘If she be false, heaven mocked itself.
I’ll not believe ’t.’
Iago’s ‘pestilence’ has been effective as Othello blames Iago for his growing mental bedevilment: ‘Thou hast set me on the rack’ and he laments the loss of his equanimity:
‘Farewell the tranquil mind, the mind content’
He demands that Iago ‘prove my love a whore’. He voyeuristically demands ‘ocular proof’. What is interesting here in Munro’s presentation of the play, is that Othello now features on the chessboard. He is now depicted as being one of Iago’s pawn pieces. His noble imagination has succumbed to the debased insinuations of Iago. The chessboard is now depicted as the ‘rack’ of suffering as Othello writhes helplessly until he loses consciousness.
The baseness of Iago is tragically evoked in the murder of Desdemona as Othello wrestles with wife in what looks like an act of copulation. Munro creates an interesting tableau at the end of the play using the chessboard as Othello, Desdemona and Emilia lie dead, thus portraying them as the ill-fated pawns in Iago’s game.
Another thing that struck me was the presentation of the relationship between Othello and Desdemona:
‘Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul
But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again’
This is the first quote that appears in the Dramasoc programme and in a sense they underscore the nature of the main relationship that this play focuses on. For me, what really came across was the uxorious nature of the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. Othello, played by a second year UCD law student Ause Braike simply could not take his hands of Desdemona. They were constantly embracing or kissing or both, thus highlighting the tragic nature of this play. While Iago dismisses their relationship as: ‘It is merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will.’ Iago describes them as ‘an erring barbarian and supersubtle Venetian’. I found it interesting that Munro did not shy away from the physical aspect of their relationship but rather presented them as two people who were very much in love and hence the tragedy.
Finally I cannot finish without any reference to the character of Roderigo played by James Cooney who was outstanding. He adroitly played the affluent buffoon. His high pitch histrionics had the audience in stitches. He came across as maudlin and ineffectual as he rolled around on the floor around the chessboard. This might be interpreted as indicative of the low esteem that Iago holds him in despite the fact that he has money.
Overall, we had a very enjoyable day. I would like to thank my sixth years who were extremely co-operative and pleasant. Please make use of this trip when it comes to the leaving cert. Engage with the question and think about the impact this play had on you!