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Friday, 01 June 2012 12:21

Othello South African style

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Dirk Steynberg: Rhodes drama student, Masixole Heshu, a plays the lead role in the Drama Department’s production Othello. Originally a work of art by the Bard himself, director Jessica Harrison gave it a new twist.


The play follows the life of colored army general Othello who falls in love with a white woman. The play depicts people’s sentiments on the seemingly strange relationship, and the social tensions an inter-racial love can cause in a community. The play takes a drastic turn when Othello’s friend, Iago deceives him into believing that his wife has betrayed him.  Othello is struck with such grief and madness that he is driven to murder his love.

“The director wanted to show how men and women exist and behave in the world. How people felt about such relationships. And also how men use their masculinity to solve their problems,” explained Masixole. He describes his character as ignorant and self absorbed – which is ultimately the cause of his downfall. Masixole found the play to be particularly challenging as a man grounded in his own culture.  Stepping out of the comfort of culture and custom, Masixole said that he was “raised in a society where people believed that they should behave in a particular way.” He mentioned he felt uncomfortable with the plot. “But we are all human” he explained.

The message of the piece was designed to incorporate isiXhosa both as a language and as a culture, and was etched into the fabric of South African life and customs – the good, the bad, and the stereotypical. Harrison managed to create a play with a new and fresh appeal to South African playwrights as opposed to the familiar, brilliant, yet sometimes over-presented works of Shakespeare.

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