Loyiso MacDonald and Robyn McHarry, who plays Desdemona. Photo: Val Adamson

OVER the past few years, Durban actor Loyiso MacDonald has become a familiar face on national TV, with stints on SABC3 soapie Isidingo, comedy sitcom Those Who Can’t, as well as a host of adverts.

But local theatre lovers would also know MacDonald from some of his most celebrated performances in productions such as Hamlet, Opera Exposed and The 39 Steps at the Catalina Theatre, among others.

And soon MacDonald will be on local stages again in Shakespeare’s Othello, presented by Think Theatre primarily as a learning aid for schools.

In a chat with Tonight, MacDonald said he was excited to play the lead role, especially as Think Theatre was celebrating five years of staging the classic.

“I find the timelessness of Shakespeare’s works appealing. A lot of people hear the language and, because it sounds alien to them, they are not interested. But Shakespeare wrote about humanity and human emotions. In Othello, we deal with a lot of things, including appearance versus reality, which is one of my favourite things about the play.

“Things like this, for me, are timeless, because they never change. Shakespeare had an amazing ability to explore human relationships and what goes on between us. Exploring all sorts of emotions like ambition, power struggles, love… things we still deal with today,” explained MacDonald.

Having worked with Othello director Clare Mortimer on previous projects, and now collaborating with her in playing the lead role, we asked MacDonald what the experience had been like: “Having worked with Clare on a lot of different projects, I’ve found that we kind of have the same approach to developing characters… This is the fifth year of Think Theatre’s production of Othello, and even now we are discovering fresh moments between characters by fine-tuning the piece.”

Dabbling in two very different aspects of arts and entertainment, MacDonald said he was hard-pressed to make a preference: “I like any work that keeps me challenged. From drama and comedy to physical theatre… And I approach TV in the same way. It is a new skill that I am continuing to learn.”

Othello has an extended, travelling run in Durban and across the country. After that, MacDonald can be seen in a repeat season of The 39 Steps, at the Catalina Theatre and in Pietermaritzburg, before he heads back to Joburg for TV commitments.

“I have already completed shooting for Season Two of the award-winning drama series Intersexions. My episodes should air around mid-February to late March… Being up in Joburg has also given me the opportunity to get close to the film industry. So I want to teach myself how to edit and explore my options in film… Film offers actors a far greater playground to be creative and explore characters in different ways,” he said.

Othello runs at the Hilton College Theatre from February 11 to 15, The Playhouse Drama Theatre in Durban from February 18 to March 27, and then it will tour Gauteng for a return season at the University of Johannesburg from May 6 to 17, followed by performances at the Brooklyn Theatre in Pretoria from May 19 to 22.

The production is presented in association with The Playhouse Company.

With its themes of racism, love, jealousy and betrayal, Othello also features Robyn McHarry as Othello’s wife, Desdemona. Clinton Small appears as the villainous Iago, while Mortimer plays Iago’s wife, Emilia. The cast also features Michael Gritten, Daisy Spencer, Marc Kay, Adam Doré, Bryan Hiles, Rowan Bartlett and Darren King.

• Schools performances are from 9am to 12pm daily, Mondays to Fridays, with a public performance on Tuesday, February 26 at 7pm. Tickets cost R50, or R80 for adults attending the public performance. Bookings are through the show’s producer, Margie Coppen, on 083 251 9412.