Review: Think Theatre’s Othello brings Shakespeare’s words to vivid life

chris-van-rensburg-as-iago-with-nhlakanipho-manqele-as-othello-pic-by

Chris van Rensburg plays the villainous Iago with Nhlakanipho Manqele as Othello in Think Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’. Photo: Val Adamson

Estelle Sinkins reviews Think Theatre’s production of Othello at Hilton College Theatre.

ONE of the privileges of being a theatre reviewer is the chance to see actors grow and develop – and that’s exactly what Nhlakanipho Manqele and Cara Roberts have done since taking on the roles of Othello and Desdemona, respectively, in Think Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s great tragedy.

Manqele has become visibly more at home as the titular hero, whose faith in his wife is destroyed by the evil poured into his ears by his ‘honest’ friend, Iago.

At the start of the play Othello is a confident warrior, willing to take on friend or foe to defend his marriage to Desdemona. Slowly, however, that same man is eaten alive by jealousy, with ultimately tragic consequences.

Manqele, who stepped into the role two years ago, delivers every line with conviction, leaving the audience in no doubt of Othello’s almost brutish descent from lover to killer.

Opposite him, Roberts is a delight as Desdemona, a young woman who has defied her father and convention to be with the man she loves.

It’s all too easy for an actress to be a little one-dimensional in this role, but Roberts’ performance is full of light and shade; and that makes the horror of her character’s murder all the more powerful.

Newcomer, Chris van Rensburg, brings a real energy to the role of Iago. The Johannesburg actor is one of three new additions to the cast; the others being Kirst Ndawo as a very feisty Bianca, the lady of the night in love with handsome Cassio, and Maritzburg’s Mpilo ‘Straw’ Nzimande, who plays a supporting role.

I have always loved the way Iago invites the audience to share in his Machiavellian plans, and Van Rensburg captures this beautifully. Delivered with a knowing smile and rich malice, his performance is riveting and richly deserves the ovation it received from pupils.

Think Theatre stalwarts, actor-director, Clare Mortimer (Emilia), Marc Kay (Cassio), Bryan Hiles (Roderigo), Darren King (Brabantio/Gratiano), Michael Gritten (Duke of Venice) and Rowan Bartlett (Montano, Governor of Cypress), provide solid support to the leads.

Mortimer’s clever adaptation of the script and sure hand as Othello’s director add to the quality of the production and ensure that two hours fly by in an instant.

I’ve always said, and I make no apologies for it, that Shakespeare’s work should be watched live on stage. It brings every word to vivid life, as the teenagers, who watched the play alongside me last week, discovered.

So, if your child is studying Othello this year and their school has not booked them seats to see this production then encourage them to do so. It is quite simply invaluable.

 

NEED TO KNOW

Othello is being performed as part of a Shakespearean double-bill with Hamlet, in which Bryan Hiles plays the title role.

Cara Roberts plays Ophelia, with Clare Mortimer as Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, Michael Gritten as Hamlet’s treacherous step father, Claudius, Nhlakanipho Manqele as Horatio, Darren King as Polonius and Marc Kay as Laertes.

Chris van Rensburg, Rowan Barlett, Mpilo ‘Straw’ Nzimande and Kirsty Ndawo round out the cast.

Both plays are being staged in Hilton until February 10, at the Playhouse in Durban from February 13 to March 24, Dundee on February 27, Newcastle on February 28, Richards Bay on March 22 March, Port Shepstone on March 23 and in Johannesburg and Pretoria in May.

Schools performances are at 9 am and 12 noon, Monday to Friday, and pre-bookings are essential.

There will be a public performance of Hamlet at the Playhouse in Durban on Wednesday, March 1 at 7 pm. Tickets are R120 (adults) with concessions for students and pensioners.

All bookings for Think Theatre’s national tour can be made with Doreen Stanley – phone 033 343 4884 or 084 556 0668, send a fax to 086 402 9592 or 033 343 4884, or email doreen@thinktheatre.co.za

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