On Stage: Shake a jubilant spear

23 January 2015 - 02:26 By Herman Lategan
LET THERE BE LOVE: Melissa Haiden as Desdemona and Muntu Ngubane as Othello
LET THERE BE LOVE: Melissa Haiden as Desdemona and Muntu Ngubane as Othello

If you want to sound frightfully "with it", or politically correct, this might be of importance to you: For the first time, Maynardville Open Air Theatre in Wynberg is staging an Othello with a local black actor.

Yawn. Let's forget about the correctness of it all and stand back.

This production is a triumph. Muntu Ngubane is a head-turning, shimmering, pitch-black Adonis towering over the stage like some god. A wanton woman next to me groaned like a strumpet on seeing him. I don't blame her.

He is brilliant as Othello; his whole body becomes the Moor, each movement a celebration of Shakespearean gravitas with all its tragedy and turmoil.

Though Ngubane is slightly inaudible at times, his presence and acting skills compensate for it. Marcel Meyer as Iago is menacing, vile and deranged, with a mouth that looks like that of a cannibal.

In modern times such a raging sociopath would have been a top politician, clergyman or captain of industry in an Armani suit. They are the ones sitting next to you in a Hummer at the traffic lights.

The cast bounce beautifully off each other, but the raw, gut-wrenching acting of Nicole Holm, as Emilia (Iago's wife), is something to witness. She is regal, imperial, majestic. When she opens her mouth, squirrels scatter into the darkness.

The costumes by Marcel Meyer are sexy and decadent. They say never judge a banana by its peel but, dear heavens, the men looked so well-hung one was tempted to phone the police. The large swaying trees around the stage, with the theatrical lighting, turned the show into something quite surreal and hypnotic.

The eerie music by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder is worthy of its own soundtrack. Fred Abrahamse, the director, and his team can take a bow and a few curtain calls to boot.

  • Until February 21. Book at www.artscape.co.za