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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Zulu rhythm to tackle Othello
Sello Maake ka Ncube as Othello and Anthony Sher as Iago
Ncube (left) stars as Othello opposite Sir Anthony Sher in the production
South African actor Sello Maake ka Ncube has told the BBC how he used Zulu dances learned in his native country to tackle key scenes in the RSC's new production of Othello.

Ncube, who plays the title role in the Shakespeare tragedy, said that he perfected the technique while rehearsing the scene where Othello makes his vow to kill his wife Desdemona.

"All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven - 'tis gone. Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell," he tells Iago - the man who has tricked him into the situation.

"In Zulu dancing, it is like you draw from the Earth with a stamp," Ncube told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"That 'arise, black vengeance' for me held this whole image that we have, that when we dance it is like we are pulling something from the floor and connecting our energy to the Earth.

"Even the speech had a rhythm that I could play with, using Zulu dancing."

Shakespeare's outsider

The RSC's new production of Othello marks the first time that two South African actors - one black, one white - have performed the leads on stage in the UK.

The role of Iago, whose clever words convince Othello to murder his innocent wife in the belied she has been unfaithful, is played by Sir Anthony Sher.

Zulu dancing
Ncube drew on his experience of Zulu dancing to enhance the role
Ncube, who previously starred as Mufasa in the West End production of the Lion King, said that taking the role of Othello he realised how firm Shakespeare's understanding of being from a different race had been.

"If you listen to some of the lines that he says, for me they're really resonant of the fears or the doubts that a black person has," he said.

"I just found it amazing that Shakespeare had that kind of an insight."

Ncube also remarked that it was this sort of insight that meant the play continued to be highly relevant.

"I think when people are sitting in the audience watching the play, it makes them aware of their own frailties and their own weaknesses," he said.

"Whatever Othello is going through, they could be subjected to."

In particular, he remarked that as a black man brought up in Apartheid South Africa, playing a black man in a white-dominated world gave the role a special resonance.

"As a black person, you constantly feel an outsider," he said.

"For me, I think, knowing that I've grown in this environment constantly made me feel an outsider, and at the same time you constantly have to prove yourself.

"I think that applies to any other black person in the world. I think that as black people, instead of doing things normally we exert more of ourselves to prove that we can be as equal or better than white people."

The Ticket is on the BBC World Service at 1906 GMT or 2006 BST.

RSC creates history for Othello
12 Feb 04 |  Entertainment

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