An energy injection for touring Othello

THINK Theatre’s annual production of Shakespeare’s Othello will showcase the talent of two young actors in the roles of Othello and Desdemona this year – Durban’s Nhlakanipho Manqele and Joburg’s Cara Roberts, who was most recently seen in the movie Durban Poison.

Director Clare Mortimer said the duo have brought an energy injection to the show.

new faces: Durban's Nhlakanipho Manqele and Joburg actress Cara Roberts are Othello and Desdemona in Think Theatre's Othello. Credit: Val Adamson

“As much as we miss our friends of old, it’s been exciting having two new people in these leads. Especially in our sixth year (of the production), it’s given us an energy injection of having to start from the beginning in some circumstances. They bring a fresh energy to how they portray their characters and in some circumstances this affects how we (the old cast) portray our characters. So it’s all fresh and exciting.”

Manqele has appeared in Rajesh Gopie’s The Coolie Odyssey, which won him best newcomer and supporting actor awards; Neil Coppen’s Abnormal Loads; KickstArt’s Don’t Dress for Dinner; and Waiting For Godot, among others.

Roberts has landed a role in Fynbos (Harry Patramanis), in Slabolepszy’s Over the Hill (Dominique Gumede) and she played Petrus in The Guards written by Ian Roberts and directed by Josette Eales.

We caught up with the duo to find out how they’ve settled into their new roles.

“I always knew it would be a challenge because I’ve never done it before,” Manqele said, “But the cast who’ve been doing Othello for a while have helped us get along… If anybody else but Clare had been directing, I wouldn’t be where I am now with this character, which is confident. Clare has a passion for Othello and she is hands-on.”

Roberts said landing the role means she gets to perform in a play she’s fond of and that’s directed by a woman.

“I’ve always liked Shakespeare and Desdemona is often an underrated character. I’ve also always wanted to work with a female director and Clare’s passion for Othello is so strong that it’s almost as if it bleeds into you as the performer.”

Clinton Small resumes his award-winning portrayal of the villainous Iago with Mortimer as his wife Emilia.

The production also features Michael Gritten, Daisy Spencer, Marc Kay, Bryan Hiles, Rowan Bartlett and Darren King