Brilliantly bringing to life Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’

2012-03-07 00:00

CLINTON Small’s portrayal of Iago, the evil villain who plots to bring down Othello in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, has grown in stature in the year since I saw him last.

His Iago is full of evil malevolence, and he reveals his plans with a kind of callous arrogance — he simply doesn’t care what happens to the other players, and isn’t even too concerned about himself.

Small is simply superb, and it’s hard to see anyone else on stage when he’s there. I especially loved his asides to the audience; the joyful glee which he takes in stripping hapless Roderigo (Bryan Hiles) of all his worldly possessions; and the skilful way he twists the knife of jealousy into Othello’s gut.

Janna Ramos-Violante, who takes on the role of Iago’s wife, Emilia, does, however, give Small a run for his money. She delivers her lines with power, wit and — when required — plenty of humour. And her anger and distress when Iago’s dastardly plot is revealed is palpable.

Farai Gwaze continues to show great presence in the title role, and his subtle changes in body language help reveal his character’s mental breakdown — from confident commander and proud husband, to an insecure man, driven mad with thoughts of his wife, Desdemona’s (Robyn McHarry) alleged infidelity with his trusted lieutenant, Cassio (Marc Kay).

McHarry, in her first Think Theatre production, brings a natural vulnerability to the role. At times the pain and confusion Desdemona feels when Othello turns against her is etched on her face. I was, however, concerned that her voice didn’t project as well as it could have done, making some lines lose their power.

Kay’s Cassio is fun-loving and has a definite eye for the ladies — but the actor also shows his steel, particularly in the scenes when Iago’s plotting and its tragic consequences are uncovered.

With a great supporting cast — Michael Gritten, Darren King, Rowan Bartlett, Adam Dore and Daisy Spencer — and skilful direction from Clare Mortimer, this production brings Shakespeare’s words to vivid life. Watching the tragedy unfold on stage and hearing the Bard’s words spoken remind you that to fully appreciate the classics, you need to see them acted.

So, if your child’s school hasn’t booked seats to see Othello, at either the Playhouse Drama Theatre in Durban until March 12 or at Hilton College Theatre from March 14 to March 16 and March 19 to March 20, encourage them to do so now.

• Schools performances of Othello at the Playhouse are at 9 am and noon daily, Mondays to Fridays. Tickets are R45, and bookings can be made through Margie Coppen, at 083 251 9412. Performances at Hilton College are at 9 am and noon. Tickets are also R45. To book, phone 033 383 0126 or e-mail tickets @hiltoncollege.com

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