Vancouver Fringe: IAGO VS. HAMLET

Iago vs. Hamlet publicity photo

Jon Paterson and Rod Peter Jr. (Photo: Jon Paterson)

Especially in these tough times, I don’t want to give anybody a bad review, but Iago vs. Hamlet didn’t work for me. The premise of playwright Jayson McDonald’s two-hander is simple: in a mix-up, Iago and Hamlet have rented the same rehearsal space for an hour. After bickering, they agree to share, but it takes too long for the central conflict to emerge: each is plotting to kill the other. Even then, there’s more filler than plot: the two characters run through a list of schemes for killing Hamlet’s father Claudius, for instance, then they run through a list of ways they might commit suicide together. None of this is funny. And playwright McDonald wastes pages in humour-free imitations of Shakespearean dialogue. Problematically, the two actors, Jon Paterson as Iago and Rod Peter Jr. as Hamlet, are in different stylistic worlds. To his credit, Paterson straightforwardly inhabits Iago’s reality, speaking from a place of motivation. Peter’s performance, on the other hand, is artificial. His Hamlet has a British accent and he’s physically mannered. Peter is letting us know that he’s acting, in the mistaken assumption — for me at least — that we’ll find this funny. Playwright McDonald also directed this show; as a director, one of his main duties was to set a consistent stylistic tone.

Vancouver Fringe Festival at the Revue Stage. Remaining performances: September 16 8:45 p.m., September 18 7:00 p.m., and September 19 8:45 p.m. Vancouver Fringe Festival tickets

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.


  1. Jordan Wells says:

    That’s a pretty harsh opinion. The performance I saw had a standing ovation at the end, and everyone around me was laughing out loud. I thought this show was witty and hilarious myself.

  2. Yeah this review is a little over the top. The audience is supposed to see them as actors rather than simply the characters they portray. Having said that, following a well-paced first 30 mins the second half lost steam. Lots of laughs, a commendable performance given that all rehearsals were via Zoom!

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