Excerpt for Just The Ticket! Part Three - Milestones by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



JUST THE TICKET!

MY 50 YEARS IN SOUTH AFRICAN SHOW BUSINESS

Part Three - Milestones

Percy Tucker



Parts One and Two available on Smashwords

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without prior permission from the publisher. ©Percy Tucker 1997




For Graham Brian Dickason

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CONTENTS

Preface

Foreword

Introduction and Acknowledgements

Author's Note

Prologue: Exits



Part Three - Milestones



  1. Crash Landings

  2. Free at Last

  3. The Russians Are Coming

  4. Entr'acte: Twenty Years On

  5. Troubled Waters

  6. Rock Around the Clock

  7. Full Circle

About the author



PREFACE

Attending an opening night performance in Cape Town without meeting Percy Tucker and Graham Dickason is unimaginable and rarely is there a ballet or opera event to which they do not bring their elegance and charm. Despite his many decades in theatre, Percy’s regular attendance, unwavering support, enthusiasm and sheer delight in the industry that runs through his veins is remarkable. A chance conversation at one such opening performance at The Fugard Theatre led to the publication of this e-book version of Just The Ticket! An autobiography detailing Percy’s involvement and support of the entertainment industry, the book also serves as an archival document, recording the complexities of a theatre industry during the apartheid years.

The original proofs were destroyed in a fire at the publishers which meant that despite many requests a reprint of the first edition was nigh impossible. As a theatre scholar and critic, Percy’s book has been an invaluable resource to me and it seemed a fitting contribution to the South African archive to enable its reprint and accessibility in the digital age.

It gives me great joy to celebrate the occasion of Percy’s 90th birthday with the release of this edition. While he may have “retired” from Computicket in 1994 his involvement in and support of the performing arts in South Africa has never wavered and a second volume of his autobiography would not be a slim one.

I hope you enjoy reading the remarkable story of the “boy from Benoni” who put the East Rand town on the map long before Charlize Theron became a household name.

Tracey Saunders

Cape Town

10th July 2018


FOREWORD

I am delighted, on behalf of our profession, to have the opportunity of expressing from the heart a few thoughts about a very special man. It is over thirty years since I, then a bumptious teenager, first met Percy Tucker. I arrived in Johannesburg just having signed pianist Russ Conway to tour South Africa and was taken to lunch by Percy. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. The book you are about to read chronicles the four decades, and more, of his life spent in our strange and exciting world. Percy has earned a very special place in the history of South African theatre and entertainment. He was the first true gentleman I met in the business and was always in a class of his own - a friend of the theatre - and the theatre is deeply indebted to him.

Percy, bitten by the theatre bug at a very early age, has dedicated his life to the performing arts. By creating first Show Service and then the gigantic Computicket network, he has had an enormous influence over the development of the full spectrum of entertainment in our country. Without an audience a performance is meaningless, and he enabled people to see anything they wanted to with ease. The importance of this contribution can never be exaggerated.

A book about the theatre is born long before the actual writing begins- in Percy's case it was when he was a young stage-struck theatregoer from Benoni and went on to become a fledgling ticket agent with one booking office in Jeppe Street, Johannesburg. He persevered where, so many others had failed until he controlled the ticketing of every theatrical, entertainment and sporting event staged in our country.

Percy Tucker is an extraordinary man who personifies everything a ticket agent ought ideally to be. His vision of the theatrical world is always clearsighted, true and steady. He is unbelievably generous, always scrupulously fair and understanding, treating everybody - stars and beginners- in exactly the same sensitive way, and he is entirely devoid of malice - unusual traits in our profession. A wonderful showman, he has inspired people to think that the theatre is not only important but indispensable to our lives. Self-effacing ('And what do you do, Mr Tucker?' 'Oh, I just sell the tickets'), always optimistic and supportive, generous with advice and encouragement, he has been a true patron of the arts.

How well I remember his kind remarks about some of my early abortive efforts, and his praise, so gratefully received, for later and better efforts remains etched in my memory. He has had a great influence on a great many careers and we have all benefited from his wise counsel. For many reasons, connected with finance, the changing structure of the theatre, and the times we now live in, we will not see his like again and more's the pity. His departure from Computicket marked the end of an era and left a huge gap. Things will never be the same again, but his legacy remains.

No one I know goes to the theatre more often than Percy Tucker, and indeed, the entertainment world has always seemed to nourish and elate him, and he has spent his life organising the chaos endemic to the theatre business. He has enormous integrity, an accolade given to many but deserved by few. His prodigious memory for productions and people is a source of wonder to me, and he himself soon became one of South Africa's best loved theatre personalities.

Always in the wings, alert to every need and every crisis, Percy Tucker has played a vital role in keeping entertainment alive, coping with the changes that both the years and our political developments have brought, and feeding the arts with his love and admiration. Today, with the decline both of funds and respect, the arts are more vulnerable than ever before and people like Percy Tucker are needed more than ever. He has served our industry with fanatical loyalty and is the nearest thing we have to a guru. Friends like Percy Tucker come only once in a lifetime. Read and enjoy this indispensable account of his - and our - world across five decades.



PIETER TOERIEN

Cape Town

1997



INTRODUCTIONS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS



There is an ancient belief that as long as you have good memories, old age will bring the pleasant experience of reliving them. Happily, I am quite a way from old age yet, but when it can no longer be kept at bay, I won't be short of memories- magic memories. In many ways I've lived a life of reflected glory, basking in the light of the many dozens of great performing artists I have met and worked with and, in several cases, with whom I've made lasting friendships. This enviable state of affairs came about through a love affair with the theatre, in all its forms, which began in my childhood and has continued undimmed ever since. Eventually this great passion led me to earn my living by the pleasurable means of devoting myself to my hobby.

From the moment I opened Show Service in 1954 and became what my horrified father called 'a ticket seller', work and pleasure became indivisible. I actually enjoyed slaving away, virtually round the clock, for some forty years before reluctantly having to concede, in 1994, that I'd reached the age of retirement. The work was hard and not, of course, without difficulties, dramas and disappointments, but these were far outweighed by the constant challenge and excitement of keeping the arts alive in our complex, constantly changing, often troubled, but always vibrant culture. Nobody, in my view, lives a totally charmed life, but I've come pretty close, blessed as I've been by good fortune.

None of this, however, makes a good reason to tell my story, and when it was suggested that I write my autobiography, my first reaction was to think, ‘Who on earth would be interested in the life of a stage-struck small-town boy, who followed a dream and found a niche in the confines of a relatively small entertainment industry?’

Forced, however, to give the matter some thought, I realised that my story is the story of six decades of entertainment in South Africa in general, and Johannesburg in particular. Looking back, it is astounding how many gifted artists of international repute have visited these shores, through good times and bad, during my own lifetime, bringing pleasure and enrichment to hundreds of thousands of South Africans, many of whom might never otherwise have had the opportunity to see and hear them perform.

Then, too, I've watched homegrown talent develop and prosper, finding fame both here and overseas, and seen the number of theatre buildings grow to house the ambitions of our own producers, directors and actors. I've marvelled at the courage of those who fought the iniquitous colour bar, using the universal language of drama as a weapon, and been awestruck by the powerful and uninhibited gifts of black performers, struggling to make their voices heard in a land which denied them access to its privilege.

Delving into the archives, I realised that my own life encompasses a remarkable pageant of people, places and events which deserve a mention in our recorded history. I realised, too, that despite the handful of memoirs and histories of individual lives and institutions, no book has been published that gives an overview of the last sixty years of entertainment in this country.

And, on a more frivolous and egocentric note, why not share some of my more amusing and glamorous memories as a pleasant reminder of things past for the older generation and, hopefully, a fascinating journey into their parents' and grandparents' world for the young?

And so, I invite you to journey back and forth with me over the years…..

This book would never have seen the light of day without the unstinting help of a great many people. It is, alas, impossible for me to mention everyone by name but there are several debts of gratitude that cannot go unrecorded.

To Patric van Blerk must go the credit for instigating the project by introducing me to Nicholas Combrinck of Jonathan Ball Publishers. It is thanks to Nicholas' persuasion, encouragement and commitment that the book became a reality.

My thanks to Clive Hirschhorn for suggesting that I bring Robyn Karney from London to work with me on the book. Herself a former South African who began her working life in the Johannesburg theatre, and subsequently a writer and editor, Robyn gave up a year of her life to apply her expertise to guiding me through the morass of memories and piles of paper - a task which she originally thought would take a little over six weeks! For once she was wrong. It's impossible to express my appreciation of such dedication.

In correcting and polishing the text, my editor Pat Tucker (no relation) gave her time, her encouragement, her experience and, most importantly, her skill, well beyond the call of duty. We were extremely fortunate to have her services.

Countless other people gave of their time and effort to answering queries, confirming facts and sharing memories. Again, I cannot list all of them, and I beg the understanding of anybody who has grounds to feel excluded. However, in no particular order, I must record the. help given by Malcolm Hacksley, Jeremy Fogg and Ann Torlesse of the National English Literary Museum (NELM) in Grahamstown where my research began. It is an inspirational institution and the unstinting courtesy of the staff will be long remembered. Thanks too, to Linda Boswell, Marius Basson and Carol Leigh of the African Studies Library, Johannesburg, for their endless co-operation, to archivist Edna Beukes at the Civic Theatre, Marie Human of Bailey's African Archives, Louana Brewis of the National Archives in Pretoria, and Clive Chipkin, whose book Johannesburg Style was a rich source.

Prominent among those who allowed me to drive them mad in my quest for accurate facts were the ever-helpful Rita Ehlers, Peter Terry and Jaco van der Westhuizen at PACT Drama, Johan Mare and Christine Keitz at PACT Opera, and Jonathan Hurwitz of PACT Ballet. I also tormented Joan Brickhill, Eghard van der Hoven, Michal Grobbelaar, Mannie Manim and Des and Dawn Lindberg, as well as several former colleagues from Computicket, notably Aubrey Louw, Peter Campbell and Iona Myburgh.

Anthony Farmer was a mine of information and memories, as were Hazel and Sam Feldman, Marilyn Lurie and Kay Blythe of Showtime International, and Gail Jaffit-Leibman and her sister Lorraine Conidaris. I owe a very special 'thank you' to the incomparable Percy Baneshik and to my dear friend and mentor Leonard Schach who, sadly, did not live to see the finished product.

The thorny path to completion was also made easier by Henry Ascar, who generously loaned me his archival material, Peter Feldman of The Star, Brian Brooke, Michael Brooke, Fiona Fraser, Olive King, Vanessa Cooke, Philip Morrall, Robert Burring of SAMRO, the staff of the Vita Awards office, Bob Courtney, John Cowen, Kathy Brookes of Museum Africa, Wendy de la Harpe, Mike Dunk, Hilton Morby-Smith, Shirley Firth, Irene Frangs, Ruth Oppenheim, John Kani, Nielle Roux, Butch Evans, June Hern, Bryan Hill, Michael Hobson, Shelagh Holliday, Michael McCabe, Michael McGovern, Richard Loring, Judy Page, Kerry Jordan, Michael Lovegrove, Patrick Mynhardt, Verity Lloyd, Michael Maxwell, Philip McDonald, Lynette Marais, Geoffrey Neimann, Gertie Awerbuch, Andre Pieterse, Dennis Reinecke, John Roos, Charles Stodel, Di Sparkes, Lotte Spider, Alan Swerdlow, Brian Thomas, Louis van Niekerk, Jean-Claude Laurent of the State Theatre, John Whiteley, Graham Wright, Jenifer Williams and Sun City's splendid photographer Lewis Horwitz.

In Cape Town, Basil Rubin was infinitely helpful, as were CAPAB archivist Hope Malan, Marilyn Holloway of CAPAB Ballet, Rodney Phillips at the Baxter Theatre, Ronnie Quibell, Robert Kirby, Joan Manners and, of course, my friend Pieter Toerien. Special thanks to Joy Wildman for allowing me to read her unpublished memoirs of Taubie Kushlick, and to Emmanuel Zabar who diligently helped me to file my massive collection of memorabilia.

Last, but certainly not least, I must express my gratitude to photographer Ruphin Coudyzer for making his superb work available to me and to Francine Blum of Jonathan Ball Publishers for her help and interest.

Finally, without the loyalty and devotion of my staff at Show Service and Computicket, my dreams and ambitions would never have come to fruition. They know who they are, and I will be forever grateful to them. I mean no disrespect to the others when I single out in particular Sheila Thomas, Joan Manners, Martie Geerdts, Glynnis Davies, Molly Meredith, Rene Hodkinson, Isabel Mendoza, Martie Bettini, Florence Msimango, Alice Nawrattel, Tommy Mahlobogoane, Cynthia Jurrius, Mary Harding, Mavis Oliver, Rose Ryder, Mary Rise borough, Cheryl van Doorn, Graydon Fry, and a special thank you to Maria Faria. Rina Minnaar, Eddie Edwards, Pearl Niemach, Dan Liebenberg and Peggy Henriques who are, alas, no longer with us, deserve to be remembered. This book doesn't pretend to be an exhaustive listing of every theatrical event that ever happened here- that would take several volumes - but I hope that the information will prove useful to future historians, and the content interesting and entertaining to present readers.



On the 26 April 1997, just prior to the publication of this book, Brian Brooke, the last of the great South African actor/director/managers passed away. His memory will live on in these pages.



PERCY TUCKER

Johannesburg

1997

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Aside from my own experience and memories, the major source of information for this book has been my substantial archive of personal and business letters and documents, mementoes, photographs, diaries, theatre, programmes and press clippings collected over my lifetime.

The facts have been supplemented or verified by the records of theatrical managements, cinema and sports personnel, critics and journalists, library news archives and, of course, former colleagues.


In addition, I consulted the following books:

  • Beginners Please, Patricia Storrar, Children’s Theatre, 1968

  • Broadway's Greatest Musicals, Abe Laufe, David & Charles, 1969

  • But the Melody Lingers On, Malcolm Woolfson, Perskor, 1992

  • Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Margaret Webster, Alfred A Knopf, 1972

  • International Theatre Annual No 3, ed. Harold Hobson, John Calder, 1953

  • Johannesburg Style, Clive Chipkin, David Philip, 1993

  • My Own Personal Star, Brian Brooke, Limelight Press, 1978

  • My Story, Harry M. Miller, MacMillan Australia, 1983

  • Stage by Stage, Donald Inskip, Human & Rousseau, 1977

  • The Best of Company, Pat Schwartz, Ad Donker, 1988

  • The Boys, Christopher Fitz-Simon, Nick Hern Books, 1994

  • The Fighters, Chris Greyvenstein, Don Nelson, 1981

  • The History of Ballet in South Africa, Marina Grut, Human & Rousseau, 1981

  • The Long Road, Malcolm Woolfson, Napac, 1986

  • The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, ed. Phyllis Hartnoll, Oxford Press, 1993

  • The Penguin Encyclopaedia of Popular Music, ed. Donald Clarke, Penguin Books, 1989

  • They Built a Theatre, Arthur and Anna Romain Hoffman, Ad Donker, 1980




PROLOGUE: EXITS



At 11.30 a.m. on 14 August 1994, sporting an uncharacteristically colourful waistcoat made in London for the occasion, I made my way to the Johannesburg Civic Theatre. The new management of Computicket were throwing a farewell party for me, the last of a series of such gatherings at which I had taken leave of my staff and the representatives of theatre managements in Cape Town and Durban. It was difficult to believe that two days later, on 16 August, I would be officially retired - forty years to the day since I had started my career with the opening of Show Service.

I had no idea what form the party would take, other than the provision of a buffet lunch during which I would see friends and colleagues with whom I had spent my working life. I knew that Mike Egan, the CEO of Interleisure, Computicket's parent company, would say a few words, and that I would have to reply, but I was totally unprepared for what actually awaited me.

The foyer of the Civic was hung with boards recording the history of my years in show business, plus hundreds of photographs of me with the often-glittering international stars who had visited here: Marlene Dietrich, Trini Lopez, Victoria de los Angeles, Roger Moore, Margot Fonteyn, Liza Minnelli, Elton John, and dozens of others. Over a podium hung a large banner of farewell greetings from my staff; on the podium, two grand pianos faced each other; in the centre of it stood a waiting microphone.

The buffet tables were bedecked with flowers, and well-known show tunes played through the speakers as I chatted to Mike Egan, to my Operations Director and rock-like second-in-command for twenty-eight years, Aubrey Louw, and my loyal, stalwart and funny Head of Information, Iona Myburgh, with whom I had fought and laughed for thirty-four years.

Despatched to the doors to greet the guests, I was astonished by the size of the crowd of luminaries who poured in. The first lady of South African musical comedy, Joan Brickhill, blonde and beautiful as ever, 3 arrived with Ian von Memerty and Bryan Schimmel the piano-playing stars of A Handful of Keys; producers Des and Dawn Lindberg came, followed by impresario and producer Pieter Toerien and my cousin, the high-profile impresario Hazel Feldman, with her father, my uncle Joe Goldstein; the elegant Public Relations executive Wilma Lawson Turnbull, director and designer Anthony Farmer, former Mayor Sam Moss, and actor-singer Richard Loring. Melanie Millin-Moore, Sol Kerzner's public relations supremo came, as did actor and executive director of the Market Theatre, John Kani and actor-producer Shirley Firth, actor, director and TV producer Bobby Heaney, actors Michael McGovern and Annabel Linder, as well as PACT Ballet's Dawn Weller and Martin Raistrick, Alan Joseph, then chief executive of the Civic, and my close companion Graham Dickason.

And that was just the start. A good hour later I'd been greeted - and often hugged and kissed- by five hundred people. I was immeasurably moved that the eighty-five-year-old former actor-manager Brian Brooke, as handsome and urbane as ever, and his gracious wife Petrina Fry had made the journey from their farm, and by the appearance of Percy Baneshik, the best-known and most knowledgeable of South Africa's theatre critics.

After lunch, critic and columnist Barry Range, a forceful, witty and articulate Master of Ceremonies, made a wonderful speech and announced that a succession of people would now pay tribute to my achievements. Since I prefer to hide behind the limelight of others, what followed embarrassed me but, I must admit, also filled me with a warm glow of pride.

I am a very emotional man and the honours that were showered on me brought me to the verge of tears that needed all my willpower to control when, some three-and-a-half hours later, I had to acknowledge them. Ian von Memerty and Bryan Schimmel sang songs for me, as did Richard Loring, Des and Dawn Lindberg, and the remarkable Joan Brickhill, whose rendition of what might have been my own signature tune, There's No Business Like Show Business, gave the patient crowd the excitement of a first night.

Councillor Cecil Bass, on behalf of the Johannesburg Civic Theatre Foundation, did me the great honour of making me a Patron of the Civic; Market Theatre chairman Grahame Lindop ended his deft and gracious address by making me the first ever Friend of the Market Theatre with tickets for all the Market shows for the rest of my life; and many further presentations and speeches were made - by former executive director of the Civic Theatre, Michal Grobbelaar and by Sun International's Michael Lovegrove; by actor Patrick Mynhardt and radio personality Paddy O'Byrne; and, of course, by Mike Egan, who 4 conferred on me the status of the first and only Patron of the organisation I had founded. There were tributes on a very personal note, too, such as that from Iona Myburgh who made a presentation on behalf of the Computicket staff, some two hundred and fifty of them.

I reflected that there is, indeed, no business like show business.

Recollecting this momentous occasion in tranquillity, what really surprised me that afternoon was to learn that I was variously and widely perceived as 'Mr Show Biz', 'the father confessor to the profession' and a 'doctor' with the cure for all box-office ailments- this from Michal Grobbelaar, who, in a fulsome flight of fancy, seemed to think that in opening up what he called 'a new sphere of marketing for live theatre', I had single-handedly made the theatre a going concern. And for the young Barry Ronge, sitting in the Chesa Coffee Bar back in the Sixties and watching the comings and goings across the arcade, Show Service had been 'a tiny little window into a large and fabulous world'.

Well, it was a large and fabulous world, and one that I entered with no thought other than to follow my boyhood dream of working within the theatrical profession. Everything I did sprang from my passionate desire to see the theatre flourish and its audiences grow, and I foresaw none of the results. I was just, as I told a TV interviewer, 'a boy from Benoni who got tired of standing in queues'.

At home, the party over, I looked back on the rich harvest I had reaped from the seeds that were sown in my youth, and couldn't help wondering what my parents, Ray and Harry Tucker, and my maternal grandparents, Mannie and Malka Goldstein, would have made of it all. I couldn't get them out of my mind.



PART THREE

MILESTONES





CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE

CRASH LANDINGS





As the turbulent Eighties entered their last year, it was evident from my daily figures at Computicket that the core audience for whom theatregoing was once a way of life, had shrunk substantially. Producers were finding it increasingly difficult to make a living from anything but blockbuster hits, though the performing arts councils were protected by subsidy and could afford to carry on with their often-ambitious programmes. Despite these difficulties, 1989 brought some very interesting theatre and some novel entertainment. It also brought two major upheavals at Computicket.

The first of these was that we were given notice that the building in which we were housed was to be demolished, necessitating a move. Since the Post Office had insufficient data lines in suburban areas to service our operation, we had to remain close to our current premises, and were fortunate to find suitable spaces at 158 Main Street in the same building as Ster-Kinekor. It was a massive undertaking, and the planning was continuous and intensive until the move, which began on the afternoon of Saturday, 29 April- a date chosen to coincide with a long weekend, thereby giving us until Monday night to get ourselves in order before the week's business commenced.

All the members of staff involved in the move were as aware as I was of the need to have not only the normal office equipment and documents in place, but also the computers re-installed and functioning by the Monday night deadline. The fact that we knew the entire leisure industry was dependent on our system spurred us to a marathon effort, and I shan't ever forget the dedication of the engineering and computing staff who worked virtually non-stop alongside Peter Campbell, Aubrey and me throughout the long weekend. The Post Office technicians, too, put in countless hours and were extremely helpful, and on Tuesday, 2 May it was business as usual in our new home.



Fred Abrahamse's novel production of A Midsummer Night's Dream which had originated in Cape Town in 1987 was brought to the Market jointly by the Market, the Baxter and the Handspring Puppet Company. The novelty lay in the imaginative use of puppets, inhabiting a fantasy world in which they interacted with Shakespeare's characters, among whom were Clare Stopford, Fiona Ramsay, Neil McCarthy, David Butler, Jennie Reznek, Robert Finlayson and Gaynor Young. They all gave lovely performances.

This was one of three Shakespeare productions which, unusually, were staged within a short time of each other. At the Alexander, Dieter Reible directed Die Storm (The Tempest) for PACT's Afrikaans company, starring Louis van Niekerk as Prospero, André Odendaal as Ariel and Peter Se-Puma as Caliban, while, for the English company, François Swart directed As You Like It with Fiona Ramsay and Jeremy Crutchley as Rosalind and Orlando.

A coda to the Shakespeare feast was the film of Janet Suzman's Othello, which she'd made for British television during the run of the play and which was shown Upstairs at the Market during a very cold August. I was invited to the preview, at which Janet (who flew down from Zimbabwe where she was filming A Dry White Season), was present, and which was held on a Sunday in the unheated main theatre. We all froze to death, wrapping scarves around our legs in an effort to keep warm.

The first of the Market's highlights was Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prizewinning play, Driving Miss Daisy, in which Annabel Linder proved her versatility as the seventy-two-year-old (ageing to ninety-seven in the course of the action) Miss Daisy, a Jewish woman in Alabama. Playing opposite her as Hoke, her faithful chauffeur and friend, was John Kani. As one critic wrote of Janice Honeyman's production, it was 'worth the drive from anywhere ... a sheer delight'.

Pieter-Dirk Uys wrote the opening production for the newly refurbished Laager. Just Like Home was directed by Lynne Maree and starred Shaleen Surtie-Richards as a coloured exile in Britain, now homesick and about to return to the Cape.

A second new Uys play, Scorched Earth, brought Margaret Inglis, for some years resident in London, back to the Johannesburg stage as the matriarch Lady Deborah, gathering together her internationally scattered family to fight the expropriation of her land for inclusion in a proposed homeland. Fiona Ramsay and Val Donald-Bell co-starred with Peggy in what should have been a thrilling event, but which barely attracted audiences. Just Like Home, however, did, and was brought back for a second season.

Athol Fugard's absorbing new play, My Children! My Africa! opened in June, and also warranted a re-run later in the year. It was directed by Athol with John Kani, Rapulana Seiphemo and Kathy-Jo Ross (Annabel Linder's daughter by her first husband, Clive Parnell).

PACT's administrative head, Lynette Marais, who, back in her acting days had appeared with Janice Honeyman in Andre Brink's Kinkels in die Kabel during the 1970s, commissioned Janice to adapt and direct Charles Dickens' Hard Times for the Windybrow. As the year's setwork, it was primarily staged for school audiences, but the imaginative production, played by a strong cast headed by Michael McCabe, Susan Danford and Robert Whitehead, was so successful that the public clamoured for seats and additional performances were hastily scheduled.

Lynette then announced her resignation from the position she had held since 1982 in order to take her commitment and expertise to Grahamstown where she became the director of the Festival, presiding over its growth into the massive cultural event it has become. And it was in this year, too, that Computicket was asked to set up a system at Grahamstown whereby the terminals could stay open late until every show in the main festival was in. By July, we had the Grahamstown Festival on line from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Meanwhile, other notable productions from PACT during the year included a revival of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, directed by Terrence Shank with Dorothy Ann Gould as Regina Giddens; a fascinating interpretation of Genet's The Blacks by Dieter Reible with Peter Se-Puma, Soli Philander and Bill Curry; and Deon Opperman's Stille Nag, directed by the author at the Adcock-Ingram Theatre.

Stille Nag dealt head-on with contemporary South African issues through the portrayal of an Afrikaans family, one of whose three sons is an AWB member, another a left-wing activist and the third a simpleminded youth who spirals into panic at any suggestion of violence. The play saw Eghard van der Hoven, back on the stage after many years, as the father, Wilna Snyman as the mother who watches her family disintegrate, and a young actress named Embeth Davidtz, who had played Shakespeare's Juliet at Maynardville in 1987, as the right-winger's wife. It was the first time I had seen this talented newcomer who, the following year, would co-star in a new two-hander by Reza de Wet called A Worm in the Bud. It was obvious that Embeth had a future, which she went on to find in Hollywood after distinguishing herself as the maltreated maidservant in the film of Schindler's List.

PACT Ballet presented La Sylphide and Les Rendezvous in February, with Catherine Burnett at her most exquisite in the former; in May the company staged three one-act ballets, La Bayadere, Suite Temptation and Sparante, and September brought the staging of Balanchine's classical masterpiece Ballet Imperial, plus the South African premiere of two Choo San Goh works, Configurations and Unknown Territory.

The highlights of the PACT opera year were Wagner's Lohengrin and Donizetti 's Maria Stuarda. The former, directed by Michael Rennison with Waiter Donati and Marita Napier, was a collaboration with PACOFS, NAPAC, and CAPAB. Neels Hansen's absolutely stunning production of the rarely performed Donizetti was sung by Denia Mazzola as Maria and Sally Presant as Queen Elizabeth I. Meanwhile, Gregorio Fiasconaro's production of La Traviata for CAPAB at the Nico Malan created an unprecedented rush for tickets when Jenny Drivala (alternating with Rikie Venter) came to sing Violetta opposite Gerhard le Roux's Alfredo (Sidwill Hartman alternating).

The spotlight shone on NAPAC when they mounted a unique 'first' - a trilogy of Broadway musicals played in repertory and marketed collectively as The Trilogy. Geoffrey Sutherland directed Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, Janice Honeyman tackled Leonard Bernstein's Candide, and Terrence Shank had charge of the most commercial of the three, Sweet Charity. On the final day of the season, all three musicals were presented as a one-day package, starting with Candide in the morning, and I joined musicals enthusiasts from all over the country who went off to Durban for this exciting event.

In September, Moira Blumenthal, in association with NAPAC, brought the company's Vita Award-winning production of March of the Falsettos to the Adcock-Ingram. This American musical play by William Finn, described as 'an engagingly wry hi-tech operetta', was directed by the remarkably busy Terrence Shank with Drummond Marais, Joseph Clark, Jonathan Taylor, Richard-Mark Rubin and Joanna Weinberg. It concerned a Jewish family- a son, his father and the man his father falls in love with. It was a lot of fun and was done again at the 1991 Grahamstown Festival, after which it toured in tandem with its companion piece, Falsettoland.

The Black Sun in Berea spewed forth a massive number of new works and eventually hit the jackpot with Susan Pam's Curl Up and Dye. Directed by Lucille Gillwald with the author, Val Donald-Bell, Nandi Nyembe and Lillian Dube, the play (set in a seedy Joubert Park hairdressing salon), went on to become a hit of the Grahamstown festival, played several repeat seasons at the Market, one at the Andre Huguenet, went to the Edinburgh Festival and enjoyed a run on the London Fringe. It was no surprise that, among the several awards it picked up, one was for best new South African play of the year.



In comparison with previous years, there was a dearth of popular musical entertainment. Virtually no new artists were coming to Sun City, though the Super bowl did welcome a successful return visit from Laura Branigan, and managed to engage the dynamic, award-winning Irene Cara, whose smash-hit singles included 'Out Here on My Own' from the movie Fame and 'What a Feeling' from Flashdance. However, since the 1988 Human Rights Concert in Harare for which Computicket had handled the booking, international artists were increasingly accepting engagements in other neighbouring African countries. In March we booked for UB40 at the Botswana National Stadium in Gaborone while, in July, we sold some 35 000 tickets for Eric Clapton and Joan Armatrading, on the same bill, at the Somhlolo National Stadium in Swaziland. Once again, I was struck by the contradiction that one could freely buy the records of these artists in South Africa, and that ninety per cent of their audiences were South Africans, yet the boycott of live performance within our borders prevailed. What astounded me is that, when I talked to several of these performers, they didn't appear to have a clue as to what the boycott was actually about.

The fans, meanwhile, would put up with much inconvenience to see their favourites and, since inconvenience was frequently in the form of delays at the border, some ticket holders were too late for the concert and thought nothing of asking us for their money back. Which is why, for these particular events, the words 'No Refunds' were boldly printed on the tickets, back and front.

Locally, fans could see Ladysmith Black Mambazo, now internationally known through the 'Graceland' album, with guest artist Thandi Klaasen, in seasons at - whoever would have thought it - the Pretoria State Drama Theatre and the Alexander. And Bertha Egnos launched Ipi-Tombi II, the NOW Generation, which she directed with choreography by Lynton Burns. The show boasted seventeen new songs by Gail Lakier, plus the giant hits of the fifteen-year-old original, 'Mama Tembu's Wedding' and the title number, and brought the sensational sounds of Azumah to the stage. The venue for the show was the former Victory cinema, for years run by Italo Bernicchi as a showcase for old movies, and now converted and refurbished as a theatre. Once again, Anthony Farmer's talents were responsible for the transformation of the building, as well as for the show's sets. Ipi-Tombi II ran for eight months.

Another new theatre came into being later in the year when Richard Loring opened The Sound Stage in Midrand on 11 October. I wasn't alone in thinking Richard had taken leave of his senses by embarking on a venture in what seemed a rather remote location, but he had done his homework and we were proved wrong. Richard directed the opening show, We'll Meet Again, the first of many sensational successes.

Starring Dianne Chandler, John Lesley and a chorus which, in the spirit of the show, was billed as the Dad's Army Chorus, We'll Meet Again drew its inspiration from Vera Lynn's repertoire of World War II songs and was marvellously evocative. Richard had the innovative idea of selling RIO tickets in the form of a British wartime ration card, which customers could exchange in the theatre canteen for a very English plate of sausage and mash with mushy peas plus accompaniments. The older generation flocked and sat through the nostalgia with tears in their eyes, but the happy surprise was the large number of youngsters who were drawn to the show, which returned for season after season.

My friend Taubie, who was nothing if not persistent, also trod familiar ground once more. Early in the year she had invited Jacques Brel's widow to the Oude Libertas Theatre in Stellenbosch to see one of her many Brel shows. Suitably impressed, Madame Brel offered Taubie the rights to make the definitive video of her late husband's work but, to take up the offer, Taubie needed a suitable venue. The upshot was the establishment of Kushlicks Theatre Restaurant at the Constantia Centre, Rosebank, Johannesburg.

We the faithful gathered there on 5 September for the opening performance of A Tribute to the Words and Music of Brel with Elsabé Zietsman, Brel regular Ferdie Uphof and Tsidii Leloka, who hailed from Lesotho and had a powerful and expressive voice. At long last Graham and I were allowed to remain at the ringside table to which we were ushered in this room which Taubie had decided to decorate in black - black tables, black walls, black stage, black costumes. The show's format was that of a slick cabaret, in which Taubie, moving with the times, had Tsidii singing 'If We Only Have Love' in Sotho and English.

The show was controversial and some of the critics panned it mercilessly. In November, Taubie announced that it would revert to a more traditional format for the last weeks of the run, with Michelle Hill and the familiar Ann Hamblin replacing Zietsman and Leloka. At the final performance on 3 December, Taubie made a speech in which she said she was still auditioning for the right cast for a video. Sadly, not only did the video never materialise, but the show proved to be her last production, ending her career with what Percy Baneshik called 'her theatrical obsession', and what I saw as her lasting love affair with the words and music of Jacques Brel.



Hazel Feldman, the only woman on the board of Sun International, began talking to the ANC about the cultural boycott, a step which led her into a major dispute with the Bophuthatswana government and resulted in President Mangope forbidding her presence in the homeland. Although the board of Sun International said they couldn't guarantee her safety, Hazel totally ignored the ban and came up with the biggest novelty attraction of the year, The Chippendales.

The arrival of ten of America's most stunning specimens of male physical beauty at the Galaxy in September had its genesis in a joke on Hazel's birthday the previous year. Her staff had plastered the walls of her office with pin-up pics of the Chippendales and suggested it was high time that, after supplying such an abundance of 'tits 'n' feathers' for the guys, she should do something for the girls. Hazel, who was searching wildly for new ideas to get the crowds to Sun City, took the joke seriously and flew to the States to talk the owner of the Chippendale clubs, venues which were the women's answer to the Playboy clubs, albeit on a smaller scale. He was happy to export a team of his hunky entertainers, the first time he'd done so, and booking opened at Computicket in August. The rush to the box office was astounding, and by the time the show opened, the five-week season was entirely sold out.

The Chippendales, who appeared never to have heard of South Africa, let alone the boycott, unleashed a late twentieth-century phenomenon. Their show featured a bevy of boy dancers, and a team of bare-chested but bow-tied waiters to serve drinks. The whole ensemble was an absolute riot. The boys knew every trick of the come-on trade and their rippling torsos brought swoons and screams of delight from fans of both sexes, who showed their appreciation by depositing cash in little cups attached to their G-strings. To call the entertainment basic is an understatement, but they had found the secret of relaxing their audiences, who lost all their inhibitions.

The Galaxy season played to mixed-sex audiences, although women tended to outnumber men. In the States, the boys played only to women, and, due to the demand, a special matinee was slotted in at the Super bowl for women only. The tickets sold out within an hour to four and- a-half thousand fans, aged from sixteen to sixty, who patronised the occasion and had the time of their lives. They also fell for the post-show sales of Chippendale photographs, calendars and magazines, which the boys sold themselves, charging outrageous prices - and getting them.

From the moment booking opened, Hazel could see she was on to a winner. Before the Chippendales had even arrived, she had negotiated a return visit for 1990, playing the Superbowl- transformed into a Las Vegas-style supper club for the season - and going on to Wild Coast Sun (much to the manager's disapproval) and Pieter Toerien's Theatre on the Bay. This second tour was a mega-success, with the boys playing to capacity audiences for several months.

Rather less of a success story for Sun City was the introduction of the Sun City Express, a train service which, it was hoped, would increase the number of day visitors. In the event, it was a rare failure among the resort's ideas. It had been launched with a tremendous public relations fanfare in the summer, with an inaugural journey that was given a send-off by bands and during which passengers were treated to champagne and all the trimmings.

As a regular mode of transport, however, it was fairly disastrous. The trains were regular suburban commuter trains, cramped and uncomfortable, and took two hours longer than the bus to reach Sun City. The return journeys were a nightmare, arriving in Johannesburg at dawn, often filled with rowdy and drunken passengers, and there were many complaints to both Computicket and Sun City. The service staggered on unhappily for a few years and gradually dwindled away.



Rex Garner directed Murder on the Nile, Toerien's annual Agatha Christie, with a cast that included himself, Jeremy Crutchley and Janet du Plessis, at the Andre Huguenet. This was followed by best-selling novelist Jeffrey Archer's first play, Beyond Reasonable Doubt, with Rex and Diane Appleby. Pieter then brought back his hit of eight years earlier, Tom Lehrer's Tom Foolery, this time utilising the collective talents of Richard Loring, Malcolm Terrey, Mark Richardson and Celeste Litkie. They were directed by Jimmy Bell, with Kevin Feather in charge of the musical end. Terrey amazed audiences with his delivery of The Elements to the famous Gilbert & Sullivan 'speedwobble'.

After the run of Tom Foolery Malcolm Terrey, who was attracting a substantial following, joined Errol Ross in a return production of Who Goes Bare for Pieter while, at the Leonard Rayne, Lena Farugia starred in We and Them, a two-hander about the Duchess of Windsor which she had written herself. Set in the mid-Seventies, two years after the Duke's death, the play switched back and forth in time, calling upon its author to give a remarkably skilful performance, which she did, with the support of Chris Weare.

During October, Pieter Toerien, PACT and the Market each opened a new production in the same week. The three otherwise very different plays shared, by a remarkable coincidence, related themes involving the machinations of spies, politics and superpowers. Pieter kicked off at the Alhambra on 1 October with David Henry Hwang's unusual, and highly theatrical tale of love and treachery, M. Butterfly, starring Sean Taylor and Jeremy Crutchley directed by Robert Whitehead; PACT staged Tom Stoppard's brainteaser Hapgood at the Alexander directed by Bobby Heaney with Fiona Ramsay, Michael McCabe, James Borthwick and Graham Hopkins, which dealt with an MI5 spy ring; and, on 3 October, A Walk in the Woods opened at the Market.

Written by Lee Blessing, A Walk in the Woods was directed by Leonard Schach, whose penultimate Johannesburg production this would turn out to be. Cast with the heavyweight duo of Michael Atkinson and Michael McGovern, this absorbing play was about the principal arms negotiators behind the East-West detente. It revealed the human faces and concerns of the men behind the political mask and brought electrifying performances from the two Michaels.

It was a month of exceptional quality at the Market where, at the Upstairs, Lanford Wilson's mesmerisingly powerful American drama Burn This, an intense, painful and sometimes funny love story, was exceptionally well-acted by Danny Keogh, Terry Norton, Russel Savadier and Neil McCarthy, under Clare Stopford's direction. For me, however, October in general, and the opening night of A Walk in the Woods in particular, remains engraved on my memory as the time of Computicket's worst ever crisis.

As I was walking out of the Market after the performance, my pager went off with an urgent summons to go to our computer room where, to my horror, human error had resulted in a failure of the central memory discs which had crashed, eliminating every booking for every show, all over the country, which had been recorded during that day. Senior staff were working frantically to rectify the situation, but by 3 a.m. it was obvious that we couldn't possibly open for normal business by morning, and the decision was made to remain closed on 4 October.

This was the first time in eighteen years that so major a disaster had befallen us, and it's difficult to describe the consequences. In essence, the crash meant that we had no records of which seats had or hadn't been either booked or sold in advance on 3 October, and therefore no record of what was or wasn't still available. The computer team worked non-stop to recover the information, and I had to exercise unprecedented ingenuity to cope with the clients in the face of this massive problem. Aubrey had the same problem with the buses, Peter Campbell who had to try and rectify the accounts, and senior staff all over the country worked twenty hours a day, attempting to recover information, while liaising with the theatres and finding a way to accommodate the public when the inevitable seating problems revealed themselves on the night of a performance.

The managements, most particularly Martin Raistrick of PACT Ballet and all the staff at the State Theatre, were remarkably co-operative. When I wasn't in my office, I was rushing to and from various venues nightly to help reseat the patrons, while Cape Town manager June Sterling coped there, and Rene Hodgkinson and Cheryl van Doom did likewise in Durban. The Durban Tattoo was the victim of the only mess that couldn't be fully resolved because the sheer weight of numbers made it impossible to reseat everybody satisfactorily.

From the public's point of view, the ongoing nightmare was barely noticed, and we were immensely proud of the discretion with which we'd handled the crisis. For me it was a double nightmare, because I was forced to postpone a trip to London and New York, departing on 5 October. Graham waited patiently for me in London, but I never made it. For the first and last time in my life I had no choice but to work on the Jewish Day of Atonement. I closed the door of my office and fasted as usual while continuing to deal with the difficulties. I finally left for New York on 27 October, still in a state of shock after living through the organisational hell of what would be forever remembered as The Crash. Among the other things we did in New York was to join dozens of South African visitors and expats at the Gershwin Theatre for the opening night of Louis Burke and Joan Brickhill's Broadway production of Meet Me in St Louis.



Back home, we went to the openings of the PACT pantomime (Jack and the Beanstalk, again a Janice Honeyman production), and, at the State Theatre, the annual musical. Only three of the performing arts councils collaborated this year (CAPAB was missing), to present Lerner and Loewe's Arthurian romance, Camelot, starring Michael Richard, Kate Normington and Robert Finlayson, directed by François Swart.

December marked the tenth anniversary of Sun City, which was celebrated with a banquet attended by everybody who was anybody in the media and entertainment world, as well as the social register. It was a wonderful occasion, where I was delighted to be seated at the same table as Taubie and Kushy. A new extravaganza, called Celebration, opened and, of course, the Million Dollar Golf became part of the celebratory atmosphere. Some of the regular names were missing, their places taken by first-time Sun City competitors (Sandy Lyle, Andy Bean, Tim Simpson, Scott Hoch), and the $1 000 000 first prize was captured by South African David Frost, winning by three shots from Scott Hoch.

During the golf tournament we heard the shocking news that Gaynor Young, understudying Kate Normington in Camelot had turned the wrong way after a big production number and had fallen almost the equivalent of three stories through a gap in the stage to crash amidst the electrical cables in a vast space at the bottom. Badly injured and in a coma, she wasn't expected to live. The talented young actress eventually, and miraculously, recovered, although with only partial sight and hearing, and impaired mobility. In 1994, directed by Maralin Vanrenen at the Civic Theatre, Gaynor told her story in a one-woman show called My Plunge to Fame, an inspiring testament to her courage.



CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX

FREE AT LAST





Forty years of repression and international isolation were swept aside early in the new decade. On 2 February 1990 President F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, the South African Communist Party, and other previously outlawed organisations. This was the prelude to the release from prison, on 12 February, of Nelson Mandela, who addressed a crowd of thousands from a balcony at the Cape Town City Hall that evening. It was a historic moment, a time of tumultuous emotions at home and general rejoicing abroad.

These epoch-making events brought both optimism and anxieties to the country. While a new dispensation was negotiated over the next three years, there was much uncertainty about the future and, for many South Africans, the barometer swung wildly between hope and despair. In my own field of endeavour, Mandela's release did not immediately signify the end of our troubles. The boycott as we had known it was lifted, only to be replaced by a selective boycott, generated now by internal rather than external decree - a state of affairs which continued to a greater or lesser extent throughout the remaining tenure of the Nationalist government. A boycott committee, composed of representative bodies such as MUSA (Musicians Union of South Africa), PAWE (Performing Arts Workers Equity) and others, had to approve the engagement of outside artists. The Cultural Desk of the ANC was also active in voicing either approval of or protest against visitors.

The South African Musician's Alliance (SAMA) was instrumental in dictating the flow of artists and, a year later, as reported by Peter Feldman in The Star of 1 February 1991, was still recommending a selective boycott, in terms of which visiting artists would be requested to contribute towards the cultural development of South Africa. Disapproval of visitors who merely came to make a fast buck was severe.

Hazel Feldman, who had already signed, for Sun City, Ice Express, a show which featured world champion ice-skating stars from Russia, Czechoslovakia and the USA, to come in 1990, had the first of several encounters with the boycott committee, who eventually agreed that she could honour the contract. Not everybody was so fortunate. The committee was periodically intractable over the years to come, and a typical example of sometimes ill-considered judgement was its failure to reach agreement with Cameron Mackintosh, who wanted to present Les Miserables here. The proposal became a political football, with inappropriate 'politically correct' changes being demanded of Mackintosh who responded by pulling out.

Within the country, however, the first and, indeed, only artists to break through the internal boycott barrier during the first year of the decade were the Lambada group, Kaoma, who visited in October. A vibrant and exciting ensemble of musicians from Brazil, France and the Cameroons, together with dancers from Latin America, they played the Standard Bank Arena to disappointingly small audiences. They returned in August the following year, but still failed to catch the imagination of the South African public.

The release of Nelson Mandela generated a huge concert on 17 March 1990 at Ellis Park, billed as The Human Rainbow Concert for Unity and Prosperity, at which the great man himself would occupy the presidential box as guest of honour. The hype was enormous, and an attendance of some 100 000 people was predicted. A song called 'We Want Mandela', specially written for the occasion, would be performed.

After the euphoria that had greeted Mandela's release, it was sad to report that his first public appearance at such an occasion was, in attendance and financial terms, a disaster. The reasons were several. The organisers had got it together at only ten days' notice, during which time Mr Mandela was on a visit to Sweden, thus casting doubt in the public mind as to whether he would actually appear at Ellis Park. Then, too, under the surface of general rejoicing, many potential ticket-buyers were concerned for their safety at such an event. It seemed, however, that the deciding factor was the seat price which, at R 15, was too high for the majority of township dwellers who could reasonably have been expected to come. In the event, only some eight thousand spectators were there, but at least the spirit of the occasion was unquenchable.



January was enlivened by Pieter Toerien's presentation at the Leonard Rayne of Jo'burg Follies, which he had commissioned Malcolm Terrey and Kevin Feather to write. Their two-hour send-up of prominent South Africans in every field, performed by Malcolm, Kevin, Jonathan Taylor and Odile Rault, was built on the foundations of their original little revue at the Black Sun, and proved so successful that a new annual version became a fixture. By the beginning of 1997, Jo'burg Follies 6 was playing in Cape Town after a successful Jo'burg run.

Pieter, in association with NAPAC, brought Ain't Misbehavin' to the Andre Huguenet. This five-handed show (Sam Marais, Natalia da Rocha, Sophie Foster, Abigail Kubeka, Basil Appolis), a hit on Broadway and in the West End, was an exhilarating tribute to the great composer, pianist and singer Fats Waller and audiences loved it. However, the Broadway musical Romance, Romance, directed by Geoffrey Sutherland with Mark Richardson and Kate Normington failed to interest the customers despite excellent reviews. In May, the cream of the country's farceurs was all working for Pieter. Gordon Mulholland, Rex Garner and Patricia Sanders shared the limelight in a revival (directed by Rex) of Move Over Mrs Markham at the Alhambra; and at the Andre Huguenet, in conjunction with Plewman Productions, Tim Plewman, Paul Ditchfield and Paul Andrews went through their comic paces in Michael Pertwee's Sextet (directed by Tim). At the Leonard Rayne, Rex directed Bill Flynn, Jana Cilliers and Maralin Vanrenen in The Maintenance Man, a rather weird play by Richard Harris which limped along for a couple of months. May also brought news that Rodney Phillips, who had so successfully steered NAPAC to a brilliant lease of life, and who had left to manage the Lyric Opera House in Queensland, Australia, in 1988 (his NAPAC post was filled by Robert Cross), had been appointed deputy general manager of the Sydney Opera House. Rodney returned to South Africa in 1996 to succeed John Slemon at the Baxter Theatre.

On 7 May, Graham and I joined many other friends of Taubie Kushlick at a gathering to celebrate the indomitable trouper's eightieth birthday. It was a marvellous party, held at the Kushlick's enchanting home where, at eighty, Taubie had lost none of her skills as a hostess. I could hardly believe that she and I had been colleagues for forty-two years. Sadly, this was to be the last of such occasions before Taubie's death in 1991.

During 1990, the theatre lost the colourful and adventurous Yango John to cancer in June. Then one of our heavyweight actors, Richard Haines, died of a brain tumour on 22 July, aged only forty-one. The last of his many memorable performances in South Africa had been as Iago in the Market Othello, after which he had gone abroad to success with the Royal Shakespeare Company, notably as King Lear. His death was a tremendous and tragic loss, and his memory was honoured the following year when Pieter Toerien named his new theatre in the Alhambra complex after him.

The loss of my friend of nearly fifty years, Ethel London, in October, was particularly painful to bear. For four decades she had fought tirelessly but to no avail to get a theatre built in Benoni and, during the mid-Eighties had witnessed the closure of the East Rand Theatre Club with all its rich associations. With her passing went one of the theatre profession's most ardent fans and stalwart supporters.

The year also witnessed the passing of an organisation, the Friends of the Ballet Society. Formed in 1972 the Society, which had two thousand members, organised preferential and discount booking schemes which did much to contribute to the popularity of ballet but, with the introduction of PACT's own subscription scheme, chairman Michael Hobson had no choice but to preside over its dissolution.



On the classical music front, Deon van der Walt, accompanied on the piano by Albie van Schalkwyk, gave a recital at the State Opera House, reviving fond memories for me of Peter Pears with his rendition of Schubert's Die Schӧne Müllerin. And also, for PACT Opera, visiting German Günther Schneider-Siemssen designed and directed Beethoven's Fidelio, with Carla Pohl singing the title role and Wolfgang Fassler as Florestan.

There was more township-based music from Mbongeni Ngema at the Market in March, with the opening of his new musical called Township Fever. It dealt with the SATS strike of 1987 and with violence, which fuelled the most powerful of its sequences but, although vibrant, it was somewhat overwrought and- despite a run in the USA- failed to emulate the success of Sarafina.


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