(Jane Howard’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/18.)
Towards the end of the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s Othello, Desdemona (Ashton Malcolm) and Emilia (Elena Carapetis) sit together under moonlight, drinking and talking. At a camp on the edge of a battlefield, Desdemona cries, questioning what led her husband to attack her, and together they sing a song sung by a woman as she died. The moment is quiet, softly devastating. It’s rare for being focused on women. The audience can breathe.
Director Nescha Jelk’s telling of the story of the black general, Othello (Hazem Shammas) who has married a woman half his age and finds himself a pawn in the manipulative game of Iago (Renato Musolino) is brutal. She rips away from what is usually a story about racism or jealousy, instead using Shakespeare’s script to critically explore a contemporary and infectious masculinity, and the violence this thrusts among men – and against women.