Shirley Johnston

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Shirley Johnston (19**-). Stage, radio and film actress, lecturer, director and playwright.




Studied drama at the University of Cape Town, and awarded the UCT Drama School Most Promising Student Award in 1975 and UCT Best Actress Award in 1976.

Has a Licentiate (Teachers Diploma) from Trinity College London.

In the 1990s did numerous courses in screen writing.


In 1976 joined Henry Goodman’s Roundabout Theatre Company, to tour the Western Cape with shows ranging from drama to comedy to street theatre and the very beginnings of industrial theatre. In 1977 she joined PACT Playwork in Pretoria, under direction of Robin Malan, remaining till 1979. After marriage and a move back to Cape Town, rejoined the profession in 1982, working for a variety of Cape Town companies.

Joined PACT in 1990-1991, doing numerous more shows and educational theatre productions, before returning to the Cape in 1992.

Moved into teaching, directing and television production late nineties. Lectured at the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Cape Town in this period, later joining AFDA in 199* (2003 – 2004 Head of Live Performance Department).

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

As a student she appeared in You Can't Take it With You,

Her first professional role was in Female Transport at The Space (1975), followed by Palach, The Seagull (Glass Theatre, 1982), The Taming of the Shrew (Maynardville, 1984), Falstaff (CAPAB, 1984), On the Razzle (CAPAB, 1984).

Moved back to the Transvaal in 1986 to work on plays such as Four Play (PACT, 1986), Look Back in Anger (PACT, 1986), Tribute (Pieter Toerien, 1987), Mary Stuart (PACT, 1987), The Story of Margaret Harding (PACT, 1989).

Once more back in the Cape, she appeared in works such as The Normal Heart (Baxter Theatre, 1992), Wuthering Heights (CAPAB, 1992), Shadowlands (Baxter, 1991), Arcadia (Johannesburg Civic /CAPAB, 1994), Broken Glass (CAPAB 1995), Heel Against the Head (Baxter, 1995), Dancing at Lughnasa (Baxter, 1998), The Winter's Tale (1997), Hysteria (Durban Playhouse/Artscape, 1997), Kennedy's Children (Eauver the Top, 199*). Gertrude Stein and a Companion (2018),

As playwright she has written several educational theatre scripts for PACT (1985 – 1990) and two plays, Sunnyside Up (PACT, 1994) and Plastics.

As a director she did many plays over the years, particularly with young people at PACT Youth Theatre, the Universities of Stellenbosch (1995-2002) and Cape Town (ad hoc since early 1980s) and .

Plays directed for Stellenbosch include Ophelia Thinks Harder (1995) and Drifte (H.B. Thom Theatre, 1996),

Her radio work includes numerous radio scripts for SAfm (1994 – 1999). Film and TV work includes appearances in more than 30 films, scriptwriting and multi-camera directing for shows like Madam and Eve and Backstage (E-TV), various student movies, dialogue and performance coaching on numerous feature films and commercials.

In 2009 she wrote a film script which won the Sithengi’s 2004 Writer's Forum Award; was a finalist in the US Specscriptacular Competition; and was a quarter-finalist in both Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest and the Moondance Screenwriting Competition. Filmed and released in 2013 as Felix! by Roberta Durrant and Penguin Films.

Awards, etc

In 1993 she won the SACPAC Award for Plastics.

Fleur du Cap Best Actress Wuthering Heights (1993), Shadowlands (1994), Vita Award (KZN 1996) for Hysteria.

WGSA MUSE AWARDS (Writers' Guild of SA) for the script Felix, 2014.


SACD 1977/78

National Arts Festival programme, 1995. 57.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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