Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers have been cast in the forthcoming Maynardville Open Air Festival production of Romeo & Juliet, set to run in the tree-encircled amphitheatre from 25 January till the 24th February 2024.
The annual Shakespeare in the park is a long-held tradition for theatre lovers dating back to 1956. It is now presented by VR Theatrical, who became the producers of the Maynardville Open-Air Festival in 2023.
The contemporary interpretation of the Bard’s tragic romance is directed by Geoffrey Hyland. Hyland’s 2023 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream delighted audiences and spawned a new generation of Shakespeare fans at Maynardville.
Hyland also garnered a Woordfees 2023 Best Director Award for his direction of the play.
VR Theatrical announced earlier this month that Nathum Hughes will take the role of Romeo. Since graduating from UCT, Nathum has primarily worked in the film industry, taking on roles in films such as Darby and the Dead, Altrad and Body Count.
In 2023, he secured a leading role in South Africa’s first-ever IMAX feature film titled Fight the Night. This will be Hughes’ theatre debut.
Juliet will be played by Simone Neethling; a versatile young artist who audiences may recognise as Judy Collins in Arendsvlei, as well as from BOS, a film in which she plays the lead.
Lady Capulet is played by Tessa Jubber, who returns to Maynardville (she played Desdemona in Othello in 2001 and Portia in The Merchant of Venice in 2008). Multi-disciplinary artist Rehane Abrahams is Lady Montague/Mercutio, and Juliet’s loyal confidante, Nurse, is played by Hannah Borthwick.
Seasoned thespian, John Maytham, will appear as the Prince while Pat Pillai, who audiences might recognise as an E News anchor, plays the arrogant Capulet.
Multi-award winning actor, Mbulelo Grootboom, takes the role of Montague with Jock Kleynhans (who was also in 2023’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) playing Capulet’s hot headed nephew, Tybalt.
Tailyn Ramsamy, who was critically acclaimed for his role in Nadia Davids’ Hold Still, will be playing Benvolio and the suitor that Juliet’s parents have chosen for her, Paris, is played by Mihir Soni (Great Gatsby).
Cleo Wesley plays the role of peacemaker Friar Lawrence. Wesley co-wrote and performed in seminal theatre work The Fall, and much of their work focuses on the lived experiences of young LGBTQ+ South Africans.
An ensemble cast is played by Sizwesandile Mnisi, Caleb Swanepoel, Zachary Esau and Thulani Nzonzo.
Romeo & Juliet is part of a season of works at the Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival.