Home » London Theatre Reviews » Tales from the Golden Age – Call Back and Iago | Review

Tales from the Golden Age – Call Back and Iago | Review

Presented as a double bill, Iago and Call Back contrast well. In the first, Neil Summerville presents one of the most vicious characters in the canon of Shakespeare in a contemporary light. In the second, the modern setting is already there, and the playwright, Ian Dixon Potter, revisits the world of science and technology, something of a recurring theme in some of his previous works. Ismail (Ramzi DeHani) has a mobile device that he wants to use for good – Summerville’s Iago wants to use his for villainous purposes.

Canal Cafe IagoOthello, Iago’s superior, is (as ever) a black man, and Iago is unhappy at not being selected for promotion because the person selected, Cassio, has far less experience than Iago. Iago can’t help thinking that Cassio’s own ethnicity has played a part in the decision, and/or that his own has counted against him. But the thing about rookies going into senior positions is that they (irrespective of identity) don’t have the connections and inside knowledge that the likes of Iago have within the corridors of power. Although he immediately alienates much of his audience almost immediately with an opening outburst, “Don’t white lives matter?”, one gets the feeling that he might well have been just as vindictive if Othello and Cassio had been hypothetically white. Especially when he refers to himself in the third person.

This monologue could, perhaps, have set the scene a little more, particularly for audience members who happen to be unfamiliar with the Shakespeare play from which much of the narrative is derived. There is, strangely, something nearly admirable about the dedication and zeal into which he puts its plotting and scheming. That said, the character’s deep-seated misogynistic views are, sadly, commensurate with the twenty-first century (re)setting – quite an indictment, really. Summerville’s portrayal is so successful at painting a portrait of a man so totally devoid of civility towards fellow humans that one finds it quite impossible to sympathise with him by the end. As the Bard never wrote, all isn’t well that doesn’t end well.

Canal Cafe Call BackThere’s a lot of detail in Call Back, which goes at quite a brisk pace – DeHani’s Ismail is naturally a very talkative person, evidenced by several occasions in which he recalls the time he had more than one mobile device, and makes call after call to miscellaneous friends and acquaintances. It’s difficult to provide further details as to why he makes so many calls without giving too much away, suffice to say that the play explores the consistency paradox with regard to time travel.

Ismail wanted to use a device that can make calls to four days ago (ludicrous, I know) to prevent a road traffic collision (that has already happened) from occurring at all, by trying to dissuade his friend from going cycling in the first place, or at least warning him to take extra care when doing so. But the paradox, as explained to Ismail by a neighbour who is a university professor, is that if a time traveller were to go back a few decades and kill their own grandparent, this would mean one of the time traveller’s parents would not be born, and therefore the time traveller themselves would not be born either, which in turn means they would not exist to go back in time.

It may be a mindboggling story, but it’s also a very amusing one, with an excellent punchline at the very end. The direct engagement with the audience in both monologues helps to maintain interest, and overall, this was a brief but thought-provoking evening.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Iago (performed by Neil Summerville)
Iago, an experienced soldier passed over for promotion, plots to wreak dreadful revenge on his commanding officer Colonel Othello. A modern-day, modern language adaptation of Shakespeare’s play seen from Iago’s perspective.

Call Back (performed by Ramzi DeHani)
After a botched attempt to repair a damaged smartphone, Ismail has accidentally discovered a means of sending a message backwards in time. How is his serendipitous discovery linked to a series of freak storms and a mysterious epidemic which are devastating a small English town?

Written and directed by Ian Dixon Potter
Original music composed and performed by Neil Thompson
News Bulletins read by Robin Lustig
Bulletins recorded by Howard White and Janet Cantrill
William Shakespeare’s Costume by Cloud Downey

The Canal Cafe Theatre,
13 Westbourne Terrace Rd,
London W2 6NG
From 7th to 14th December 2020


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