Watching Shakespeare’s Othello at the Maynardville Open Air Theatre somehow feels pure. Sitting under the stars, actors moving on a stripped down stage, lighting and sound the only effects used – it makes me feel as if I have gone back in time, viewing a show as it would be performed in Shakespeare’s time.
As a Shakespeare lover, I know how easy it is to butcher his work. Portraying his characters sincerely is no easy task, particularly with his tragedies. The stripped-down structure of the play makes you hyper aware of the actors, how they speak, move and interact. Othello was brought back to the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre following a successful run last year, and it is only the second time in history Maynardville has done this. With all these factors, the production was under a lot of pressure to impress; and impress they did.
For those of you who don’t know (or forgot everything you learnt in high school English), Othello is about a Moor (aka black) man, who is a celebrated in general in a white man’s world. Othello passes over the ambitious Iago for the role of his lieutenant, driving Iago to plot his demise. He drives a wedge between Othello, his beloved wife Desdemona and his lieutenant Cassio, and poisons Othello with thoughts of jealousy. The outcome is, of course tragic.
Marcel Meyer’s portrayal of the devious Iago was incredible. He weaves the story so perfectly; he shows great malice when talking to the audience and effortlessly switches to false charm when interacting with the characters. He is a very big reason why Othello is so good. Pope Jerrod brings the title character to life. His very presence on stage commands respect, but it is only when Othello transitions from happy and good natured to jealous and treacherous that you see just how perfect he is for the role. You can’t help but feel sorry for him as he is manipulated by Iago.
These two performances would not be as good if it were not for the great work of the whole cast. They play off each other so well and draw you into the story so fully. I have to give a shout out to the costumes. Not only do they work as a device to distinct Othello’s otherness to the rest of the characters (he wears back and everyone else wears white), his costume has heavy African influences. This is so appropriate as the issue of race strikes a strong chord in South Africa.
There is a reason why Maynardville is showing Othello again, if you did not get to see it last year, go see it now. You will not be disappointed!
When Tuesday 26 January 2016 at 8:15 pm (until 23 February 2016)
Where Maynardville Open Air Theatre, Maynardville Park, Piers Road, Wynberg
Cost R90 – R180 at Computicket
Contact +27 21 410 9800