by Victoria McGuin
Montville Village Hall, formerly the Montville School of Arts, is a fitting venue for a glittering opening night of Douglas Hackett's new play, IAGO, on August 9, 7-815pm, before it goes on a national tour with ambitions for Broadway. (Two more performances on Thursday August 10 3- 4.15pm and 7 - 8.15pm.)
Two actors gather in an apartment. One, a seasoned pro, is playing Othello. The other, an up-and-comer, is playing Iago. As their intimate rehearsals transform into consummated love, words, worlds and bodies collide. Will their relationship survive?
IAGO is a play; a modern reframing of William Shakespeare’s Othello through the lens of its central relationship. It investigates both male sexuality and manhood, whilst asking the audience to confront their own ideas of masculinity.
Directed by Michael Beh with dramaturgy by acclaimed Australian playwright Stephen Sewell, the play is a dreamlike tale of two men and their journey toward self-discovery. For both the infrequent audience member and the regular theatregoer, IAGO is a play for all.
Meeting playwright Douglas Hackett recently, I was keen to find out how this idea came about.
“The catalyst came from a Shakespeare class years ago,” said Douglas. “Looking at the reasons for Iago’s hatred towards Othello, there were many differing motivations, but I liked the homo-erotic aspect, and the thought that Iago wants to be Othello.”
Douglas trained at both NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and the National Institute of Dramatic Arts. “I actually went to drama school to learn how to direct,” Douglas shared, “and it was very informative learning how actors work, what they do and don’t respond to.”
Douglas wrote his first full-length play when he was 20. “It was inspiring to do and I kept working on it, tweaking it. In 2022 I did a creative workshop with playwright Stephen Sewell, and now we are collaborating on IAGO, which I am so happy about.”
When it came to the actors’ readthrough for IAGO, everyone in the room talked through their experiences, and some of these translated to the actors’ emotional attachments in the play.
“We discussed growing up in Australia as a gay man, and how it has impacted them,” said Douglas.
Today, the most menacing cause of death amongst Australian males is suicide. Over two thousand men killed themselves in 2021. There are many factors as to why, but as a survivor himself, the playwright Douglas Hackett recognises the two most dangerous catalysts: sexuality and our perception of masculinity, of what man should be.
With support, IAGO creatives can stage this mighty and powerful declaration of love, kindness and understanding to bigger audiences. And better yet, speak to someone in the crowd who may be struggling.
“I’ve had so much support throughout this,” added Douglas. “My family hosted a fundraiser which raised over $30k through the Australian Cultural Fund, which has helped with rehearsals and production costs.
“Wayne [Rangebow Festival Director] has been kindly waiting for us to get to the stage where it’s ready, he’s been absolutely brilliant and understands how much it means to everyone involved.”
For tickets to this world premiere, visit therangebowfestival.org