Basil Warner

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Basil Warner (19*-2004) was a businessman, amateur actor, writer, set designer.


Born Basil John Warner in South Africa.

He worked as an advertising executive in South Africa and married actress and director Minna Millsten in the 1940s. In 1960, Basil and Minna moved to the UK, where he worked for Lever Brothers. Warner died in Welshpool, Wales, in 2004.

His contribution to theatre, film, media, and performance

Well known in theatre, radio and journalistic circles, he was involved in many drama productions as amateur actor and occasional set designer, in Cape Town and Johannesburg and in productions for the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation).

As a designer, he did the sets of Millsten’s production of Gordon Daviot’s Richard of Bordeaux (Children's Theatre, 1951).

As a writer he produced only two known original texts, a one-act play called Divine Sarah and Try for White, a controversial full-length play about love across the colour bar. The latter play was produced in 1959 by Leonard Schach’s Cockpit Players, and became a sensation, touring the country.

In the Introduction to the collection Plays from Black Africa, the author - Frederic M. Litto - refers to a play by Basil Warner called The Strong Are Lonely, as Warner's contribution to South African theatre, in the context of the many plays on the race issue that appeared in he late 1950s and early 1960s - also listing Athol Fugard and Tone Brulin. What is still dubious, though more likely, is that Warner may have translated/adapted the German play into English under that title for the performance presented at the Library Theatre, Johannesburg, by the Johannesburg Repertory Players in June 1957 (directed by Cecil Williams, with sets designed by Anthony Farmer and Charles Stodel in the cast).

Try for White was broadcast in the BBC's Theatre 625 series in 1965 and in 1969 Try for White was used as the basis for the script of Katrina, one of the most controversial and significant political films produced by Emil Noval and Jans Rautenbach.

Divine Sarah was never published at the time of writing, but a prompt text for Try for White, used by the original stage manager, Paddy Canavan, was eventually edited by Petrus du Preez and Edwin Hees and published in the South African Theatre Journal, 17:1, 284-371, 2003. .


Tucker, 1997.

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