Turnbull's turn as a Shakespearean villain

Malcolm Turnbull (3rd from right) in the cast of Othello at Sydney Grammar School in 1970 (The Sydneian) Source: Supplied

Even at high school, Malcolm Turnbull was billed as a character 'hell-bent on revenge.' We've uncovered the 1970 review of his performance as Iago in Othello.

Backstabbing, a character obsessed with revenge, and well-rehearsed soliloquies – the Liberal Party leadership battle sounds like a Shakespearean tragedy.

And Malcolm Turnbull would know – he started rehearsing for his big moment in the spotlight way back in 1970.

The now Prime Minister starred in William Shakespeare’s Othello at Sydney Grammar School as a teenager and the review, published in the school magazine, The Sydneian, in November 1970 was rather telling.

Turnbull played Iago, a villain out to get the title role.

“To be moved by the full force of Othello’s tragedy the audience must believe in an Iago hell-bent on revenge against Othello; a revenge motivated by pique at being overlooked for promotion,” the reviewer wrote.

“Although always careful to conceal his true character in the presence of others, Iago’s revenge becomes an obsession taken to the point of paranoia.”

Decked-out in Shakespearean regalia, complete with a wispy, pointed beard and moustache, the young master Turnbull preyed on the characters sharing the stage with him.

His penchant for smooth speeches stood out even then.

“With a voice of rich quality, M. B. Turnbull spoke the poetry with clarity, although his soliloquies needed to be less mellifluous and more varied,” the reviewer declared in The Sydneian.

“In voice and commanding presence, he showed he possesses the resources to have given a believable performance as Iago, had he acted with less artifice and more spontaneity.”

As Shakespeare said, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances.”

Malcolm Turnbull made sure his entrance was a dramatic one.

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