Why do we take work out to schools? Reflecting on Iago by Western Edge Youth Arts

Throughout May and June, Regional Arts Victoria is raising funds to help disadvantaged regional school students experience high quality art. In this blog series, Regional Arts Victoria staff reflect on why a good arts education is so important for children and young people.

Iago by Western Edge Youth Arts at Footscray City College 2016. Image by Joanna Gould.

Iago by Western Edge Youth Arts at Footscray City College 2016. Image by Joanna Gould.


And I want to be heard. I want to be HEARD! And I’ll help people to understand that they’re all different and that’s totally fine – Desdemona, Iago.

Recently I worked on a regional tour of Iago presented by the Edge Ensemble from Western Edge Youth Arts. I had a chance to see the show at Footscray City College and it was a truly wonderful performance. Iago is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello set in a rat-infested boxing ring performed by a culturally diverse cast. The performance was collaboratively devised by the performers themselves under the direction of Dave Kelman. This ensured the integrity of the characters, reflecting their cultural diversity, and enriching the text and themes to bring this relevant and confronting story to a contemporary audience.

It was not just the adapted text that impressed me but the way the performers themselves tackled the themes in Shakespeare’s Othello and opened up conversations with their young audience. They brought themes of domestic violence, misogyny and racism up for discussion, allowing students to engage in discourse about how these issues are present in their own lives and in our society. Iago was received extremely well by students and teachers alike, and support was provided for students who might be experiencing such conditions themselves. Every performance was supported by excellent teacher resources, compiled by Meg Upton, enabling the teachers to prepare their students well for what they were about to see, and plan units of work around the performance.

Truly an excellent example of the power of the arts to inspire and help open up important conversations in a safe space with and for young people.