Oti Mabuse is best known as a professional dancer on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing and is one of the most popular performers on the show. She secured a place in the final in 2016 with her partner Danny Mac.

Oti is also an 8-time South African Latin American Champion and one of the most successful South African dancers in the world. She has appeared on many TV shows including BBC’s The Greatest Dancer, C4’s The Last Leg, Celeb Tipping Point, Pointless, Partners In Rhyme, Impossible, Blockbusters, Catchphrase, Would I Lie To You, 8 Out of 10 Cats and Britain’s Got More Talent.

Hot on the heels of Ain’t Misbehavin’, Oti will choreograph Kiss Me, Kate at The Watermill Theatre, which runs Thursday 25 July to Saturday 21 September 2019.

You’re choreographing Kiss Me, Kate at Watermill Theatre what can you tell us about this production?

It’s going to be fun Lovely, Funny and Fresh – I want to have a new take on the musical and I want people to sit back in their seats and enjoy themselves.  The cast are brilliantly talented actor-musicians. They play music, they can sing, they can act and they can dance. I get to work with the incredible Rebecca Trehearn (playing Lilli) – the first day I heard her sing I almost fell off my chair, I was like “Wow! Oh my goodness she is incredible” – and the brilliant David Ricardo Pearce of course (playing Fred) who is Mr Personality and he just really is so professional. It’s an exceptional honour and a real privilege to be able to work with the whole cast. I’m also enjoying working with Paul Hart (Director). I love his real cool manner about everything, his creativity and how we work together. He lets me be free and I really like that.

What made you want to move into theatre choreography?

I like to choreograph, and I think that’s why I moved into musical theatre. I like the idea of being able to create our magical world – there is nothing like musical theatre as it gives you a complete feeling of being in an imaginary musical world – it’s like taking your baby and watching it grow into a full adult.   When I was asked to choreograph Kiss Me, Kate I really hadn’t prepared myself for what I had to do.  In my head it was mostly choreographing for the actors but when I got here I realised it was a full production and I’d have to put the musicians in and that the musicians sometimes played different instruments and that just made it more intricate and even more exciting!

Kiss Me Kate Rehearsals LtoR Robert Jackson Jay Perry Sheldon Greenland Andre Fabien Francis Photo by Pamela Raith
Kiss Me Kate Rehearsals LtoR Robert Jackson Jay Perry Sheldon Greenland Andre Fabien Francis Photo by Pamela Raith

Everyone in that rehearsal room gives 100% and they go full out every single time. I appreciate that so much because I know I’m going to get their energy and build from that. They’ve been amazing.

I’ve been working with James Bennett as my Associate Choreographer on the show and he’s able to put my vision into their bodies and together we’re able to teach them and bring their talent out. We also challenge them, because I feel like if you challenge me, I have to challenge you and we all rise up to the occasion and we make it a beautiful production!

What was your biggest learning working on Ain’t Misbhavin’ that you’ve been able to bring to Kiss Me, Kate?

Use what the artist can do and make them feel comfortable but also push them at the same time.

What makes The Watermill the ideal home for Kiss Me, Kate?

It’s really nice to work here at The Watermill, at this beautiful theatre and because of the space itself, audiences get to really feel like they’re a part of it.

It’s gorgeously intimate, the audience are really close to the action and they get to see and feel the fullness and dynamics of the whole musical. I think that’s why it will work especially well in this space because people will get to feel like they’re in it and they’ll get the gags, they’ll get the brilliant performances and hopefully they’ll appreciate the choreography.

How have you found working with the cast?

The cast – I love them – they bring the best out of me – they are so talented and I feel so honoured to be working with them – they bring their best to every single rehearsal which makes my job so easy.

It’s really good to see good performers do what they do best and know that I’m a part of that. I love rehearsing with every one of the cast, because I know when I go into work I’m going to laugh and it reminds me of what I do on Strictly as well, it’s basically coming into a room and creating beautiful numbers. I love it, I really really love it. It’s a lot of fun and I find the hard work a lot of fun.

Kiss Me Kate Rehearsals LtoR Rebecca Trehearn Tom Sowinski and Chioma Uma. Photo by Pamela Raith
Kiss Me Kate Rehearsals LtoR Rebecca Trehearn Tom Sowinski and Chioma Uma. Photo by Pamela Raith

I think what’s really interesting about how it works [in an actor-musician show] is that everybody has an important role to play so you’re not just playing one instrument, you then have to switch your role and switch your character and switch instruments and I love the incredible versatility of it all.

I know that I’m going to be able to take the lessons I’ve learned here into all the other work that I’m about to do.

What would you say to anyone thinking about coming to see Kiss Me, Kate? 

Come come come! – experience the beautiful world that we have created – a magical world – I hope you all enjoy it!!

Kiss Me, Kate, choreographed by Oti Mabuse is at The Watermill Theatre Thursday 25 July to Saturday 21 September 2019.

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