Bill Curry

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Bill Curry (1931–2015) was a South African actor, dancer, director and teacher. (Also billed as William Curry in some instances apparently)

Biography

Born William Edward Curry in the Bokaap, Cape Town on 26 March 1931. His first stage appearance was a "walk-on" role in The Tempest in 1946. He studied at Hewat Teacher Training College and became a teacher and was active in local amateur theatre, appearing in musicals and light comedy.

In 1956, aided by author and critic Denis Hatfield, he went to London to study at the Central School for Speech and Drama. He returned to South Africa in 1962. He later also studied at the University of Cape town and received a BA (English Literature).

Because of Apartheid regulations, he was initially unable to perform professionally on his return to South Africa and so he became a teacher for a while, teaching inter alia at Sunnyside Primary School (1960-62) and in Simonstown, while doing part time acting.

He then studied at the University of Cape town and received a BA (English Literature).

In 1972 he joined the Space Theatre in Cape Town as one of the foundation members, and was kept busy performing, directing and running the printing press at the theatre. After this his theatre, film and TV career would really take off.

The newspaper critic and author Denis Hatfield (pseudonym of Denis Hatfield Bullough), whom he had met early in his life, would become his lifelong partner.

Contribution to South African theatre, film, media and performance

Bill Curry was possibly the first star performer from the "coloured" community in the high apartheid years, and became a role model and mentor for many to follow.


As actor

Over the years he had roles in a wide range of local and international plays, for a variety of companies. He started his career with a walk-on part in The Tempest in the Cape Town City Hall (1946) and went on as a performer in Cape amateur theatre, playing inter alia at the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg.

After his return from England, he starred in Charlotte Pretorius’s production of Genet’s The Blacks at the Claremont Civic Centre in 1962. This non-racial production was part of New Theatre under George Veldsman, founder of The Drama Centre.

In 1964 he danced "The Fool" in David Poole’s ballet, The Square, with music by Stanley Glasser, at the Cape Town City Hall. It was produced by the Eoan Group, starring Johaar Mosaval from the Royal Ballet. He also appeared at the Little Theatre in J.B. by Archibald Macleisch , winning his first Three Leaf Award for the best supporting player.

Between 1972 -1978 he performed for the Space Theatre in numerous plays, including An Evening with Marcel Proust, Ashes, Balls, The Caretaker, Don't Drink the Water, Dracula, Drivers, Endgame, The Exception and the Rule, A Flea in her Ear, Fortune and Men's Eyes, Futz, The Indian wants the Bronx, Line / It's called the Sugar Plum, The Lonely Giant, Macrune’s Guevara, The Maids, Muzeeka, My Family came over with the Normans, Old King Cole, Patrick Pearse Motel, Picnic on the Battlefield, Rats, The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui (1979), Snow White and the Special Branch, Spike, Superman and Living in Strange Lands (Tsafendas). Die Van Aardes van Grootoor (Pieter-Dirk Uys, 1978).

In 1977 he, Chris Galloway, Dawie Malan, Richard E. Grant and others formed the experimental theatre group, Fringe.

In 1979 he appeared in Info Scandals (Pieter-Dirk Uys, 1979).

In 1980 The Indian wants the Bronx was repeated at the Market Theatre , where he went on to work doing Hennie Aucamp's Met Permissie Gesê (Market Theatre, 198*), Fugard’s A Lesson from Aloes (Market Theatre and Baxter Theatre 1979, Royal National Theatre, London (9 Jul – 16 Aug 1980), Hell is for Whites Only (Pieter-Dirk Uys, 1982), The Dybbuk (1984), The Threepenny Opera.

He then became a member of the PACT/TRUK Company, for which he played Filipot in Die Huigelaar (1986); Jean Genet's The Blacks (1989), Bartho Smit's Die Keiser ( 1992).

Other roles have included Exit the King (as "Berenger"), Deathwatch (as "Green Eyes"), Neighbours (as "The Man"), Don't Drink the Water (as "Kilroy"), A Flea in Her Ear (as "Poche"/"Chandebise"), The Ageing Adolescent (as "Jake Hendrickse"), Adam Small's The Orange Earth, The Gin Game, Fugard’s Boesman and Lena (1993) and People are Living There, (199*).


He had a role in the documentary film Fugard's People (1982).

As director

As director he did The Riddle Machine and, most significantly, in 1981 volunteered his services as director to the recently formed Handspring Puppet Company, for whom he directed The Honey Trail (1981), Kashku Saves the Circus (1982), Mbira for Pasella (1983), The 13 Clocks (1984), The Mouth Trap (1985). These productions toured to schools in South Africa, and to Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland.

Awards

In 1965 won the Three Leaf Arts Award as Best Supporting Actor for “Nickles” in J.B. by Archibald MacLeish. (The awards were later renamed the Fleur du Cap Awards).

Documentation on Bill Curry

A collection of Bill Curry's documents are available in the Wits University Archive, listed as: CURRY, Bill (AM 2788). It is described as follows on the archive's website: "The collection includes extensive correspondence between Curry and his partner Denis Hatfield Bullough, as well as correspondence from friends and colleagues. Also included is Curry?s personal scrapbook, press clippings relating to his acting career and other subjects, theatrical paraphernalia, including newsletters, posters, programs and other items, photographs and personal memorabilia (including a typewriter)".

See http://www.wits.ac.za/library/gala/archives/290/archives_c.html

Sources

SACD 1978/79; 1979/80

Letter and updated biography from Basil Jones, received 20 July 2015.

Wits University Archive: See CURRY, Bill (AM 2788)[1]

Barrow, Brian and Williams-Short, Yvonne (eds.). 1988. Theatre Alive! The Baxter Story 1977-1987.

Die Burger, 26 April 2011[2]

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