Mark Fisher takes a dip in an AQUATIC IAGO, and finds it deeper than expected

Mark Fisher
If you’re on a single-decker bus with a badly improvised assassination taking place behind your head; if you forego a four-hour Anthony and Cleopatra in German in favour of a three-hour reworking of Othello in Russian; if you’re watching four performers dancing to the stage-directors of Henrik Ibsen… then it must be August and you must be in Edinburgh. The less said about the bus the better, but the Russian-language Othello, retitled Iago and performed in a district council swimming pool, is the kind of curiosity that makes the Edinburgh Fringe so special. Desdemona makes her entrance with a graceful dive and an underwater swim; Roderigo keeps his costume in a cubicle; when Othello commits a suicide he pulls a handcuffed Iago into the water behind him. Yet somehow this production by the Ukrainian company Theatre-on-Podol never looks gimmicky.
Director Vitaly Malakhov uses the baths economically: the actors sit at plastic poolside tables, transporting themselves on rubber-ring boats and disappearing into the showers when it’s time to exit, but rarely does the location retorts the demands of the play. A rugged Iago (Anatoly Khostikoev) and a scrawny, white Othello (Vladimir Kouznetsov), who all but has sand kicked in his face, play the game of deviousness and jealousy with so much Eastern European self-possession that only the whiff of chlorine and the reflected ripples on the ceiling remind you that theatre doesn’t normally come like this.


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