Anna Neethling-Pohl. (1906-1992) Vocal artist, actress for radio, stage and film, director, lecturer, playwright, translator and rugby-lover.
Best known under her married name of "Anna Neethling-Pohl", the South African actress and author was born as Anna Servasina Pohl in Graaff Reinet in the Eastern Cape on 24 December 1906. Her parents were the cultural leader and theatre enthusiast Pieter Pohl and Evelyn Maud Pohl (néé Luyt), and her siblings (Truida Pohl, Jan Pohl and Snaps Pohl) all became theatre practitioners as well.
She married J.C. Neethling (1930) and had one daughter, Evelyn Erda. In 1935 moved to Pretoria. Divorced in 1945.
Pohl died in 1992.
At the age of five she joined theatre and continued to perform until high school when she took part in Die Laaste van die Takhare in 1923.
She taught high school at various schools and colleges over the years (i.a. in Graaff-Reinet, Pretoria , Gordons Bay) while involved in amateur theatre.
Pohl became a film actress and the first female broadcaster from 1935 and contributed to volkfeeste (National festivals) which began in 1938.
After a brief spell with the Road Works Department, she joined the SABC as professional actress, announcer and director (1945).
In 1947 she toured the country with André Huguenet and Leontine Sagan artistic advisors, to address meetings and audition players and went on to serve NTO as actress, director and artistic director (1956-57), doing numerous plays for them as well as overseeing the NTO contribution to the 1952 Van Riebeeck Tercentenary festivities.
After working for 21 years at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) presenting women and children’s programmes, she joined the University of Pretoria Drama Department as as lecturer, later Professor, a post she held till retirement in 197*.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
As actress on stage
She performed in over 50 stage works and lead roles, half of which were indigenous Afrikaans dramas. She appeared in 19 plays for Volksteater between 1936 and 1942.
Her many stage performances include, among others, Lentewolken by Herman Roelvink (UDV ,1925), Koringboere by D.F. Malherbe (UDV ,1926), The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen (UDV ,1926) and Candida by G.B. Shaw (UDV ,1927), P.W.S Schumann's Hantie kom Huistoe (1933), Ibsen's Boumeester Solness ("The Master Builder", 1935), J.F.W. Grosskopf's In die Wagkamer (1936), H.A. Fagan's Rooibruin Blare and Ousus (1936), Schumann's Katrina (1937), Sophocles's Koning Oidipus (1938), Leipoldt's Die Laaste Aand (1940), Maria Stuart (1941), Fagan's Lenie (1941), Grosskopf's Legende (1942) Maeterlinck's Monna Vanna (1942) and his Suster Beatrys (1943), Pinkie (1944), Korrels en Kaf (1944), W.A. de Klerk's Ontvlugting (1944), Die Vroue van Troje (1945), Hamlet (1947), Ibsen's Spoke (Ghosts, 19*), Gif en Oujongnooiens (Volksteater, Pretoria, 1948), Macbeth (NTO, 1950) , D.J. Opperman's Periandros van Korinthe (1956), N.P. van Wyk Louw's Germanicus (1957), Dürrenmatt's Die Besoek van die Ou Dame (1962), Pirandello's Die Lewe wat ek jou Gegee het (1964), Elektra (196*), Van Wyk Louw's Die Pluimsaad Waai Ver (1966), Moeder Courage (Brecht, SWAPAC*?, 19**), Die Goue Kring (1975).
She starred in Bartho Smit’s Afrikaans translation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, directed by Fred Engelen, and staged at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre in 1962. She starred in TRUK’s production of Elektra at the Civic Theatre in 1965. It was directed by Costis Michaelides.
In 1986 she played a lead role in the Higgins’s Harold and Maude.
As director she did many plays with amateur, student and professional groups. These include Terwyl daar Basaar gehou word (Ons Teatertjie Toneelgroep, 1936), Die Dieper Reg (Volksteater, 1938 and 1941), Die Wildsboudjie (Volksteater, 1940), Maria Stuart (Volksteater, 1941), In 'n Skewe Straatjie (Die Katdorings, 1945), Hamlet (co-directed with Siegfried Mynhardt,1947), Nag het die Wind Gebring (for the NTO inaugural season 1948). In 1952 she was the director of pageants for the Van Riebeeck Festival, and in 1956-7 was director and artistic leader for NTO, directing 10 plays for them.
She directed Periandros van Korinthe which was staged by the National Theatre’s Afrikaans arm for one of their Festival productions at the Library in 1956. She directed Gekonkel in die Nag, which was a translation of Ferenc Molnar’s The Play's the Thing, and was also staged by the Afrikaans arm of the National Theatre for their Festival production at the Library in 1956.
Founder of theatre societies
Anna played a major role in founding and running a number of theatre societies and companies over the years. As student she was a member of the Dramatiese komitee ("Drama Committee") of the Unie-debatsvereniging (UDV) in Stellenbosch.
In 1933-1934 she helped found the Kaapstadse Afrikaanse Toneelvereniging (K.A.T). In 1935 she moved to Pretoria, to become the co-founder (with Leonie Pienaar) of Ons Teatertjie Toneelgroep (renamed Volksteater in1936), remaining its driving-force till 1945. (She appeared in 19 plays for Volksteater between 1936 and 1942.)
In 1937 she became a specialist member of the Toneelburo of the F.A.K.. In 1941 she began a shortlived Kinderteater ("Children's theatre") project for them, in which she had children creating plays (also by improvisation) and initiated an annual Kersspel ("Nativity Play") for the society. She also led the Katdorings-Toneelgroep, and worked for the Krugersdorp Municipal Dramatic and Operatic Society and the Pierre De Wet Toneelgeselskap (her first professional tour).
In January 1947 was made a member of a sub-committee of the National Council for Adult Education, intended to study theatre matters. It further consisted of P.P.B. Breytenbach (chair), Donald Inskip, Myles Bourke, and Steve Naude (secretary), and submitted a proposal for a state-funded theatre to the government. This evenually led to the establishment of the National Theatre Organisation (NTO) in 1947, with Neethling-Pohl a member of the first board.
Radio and film work
Much of her fame however rested on her oratorical talents and her readings of the Afrikaans poets and writers. Her radio work included *** Films include ****.
Playwright and translator
Pohl translated plays into Afrikaans and in addition wrote plays and novels.
Binge, 1969; Neethling-Pohl, 19**; Du Toit, 1988.
Anna Neethling-Pohl Dankbaar die Uwe
Die Burger 23 December 2006.
Teater SA, 1(3), 1969.
For more information
Return to ESAT Personalities N
Return to South African Theatre Personalities
Return to Main Page