Cecil Williams

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Cecil Williams (1906-1979). A school teacher by profession, also directed plays.


He was a political activist and a member of the Communist Party. His role in underground political activities during the 1950s and 1960s in South Africa is described in Greta Schiller's documentary film The Man Who Drove With Mandela (he was a passenger in the car when Nelson Mandela was arrested near Pietermaritzburg) shown at the Berlin Film festival in 1999. He was forced into permanent exile in 1962 and died in London in 1979.

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

Leonard Schach directed Leon Gluckman and Cecil Williams in The Middle Watch at the Little Theatre in 1944.

He directed plays for the East Rand Theatre Club and on occasion acted as adjudicator for the FATSSA Play Festival.

He directed Deep are the Roots (1951), Winterset (1953) and Ferenc Molnar’s Liliom in May 1953.

He directed the Johannesburg Repertory Players in a production of The Tempest at at Reps Theatre, 5 to 20 February 1954, with Ruth Hooper and Cecily Langston in the cast and Anthony Farmer as stage director.

He directed the Children's Theatre open-air production of The Merchant of Venice at the Zoo Lake in the summer of 1957 and at the Donaldson Orlando Community Centre.

For their two-hundredth production, the Johannesburg Repertory Society presented The House by the Lake, directed by Cecil Williams and starring the West End actress Sonia Dresdel in 1957.

He directed a production of The Strong Are Lonely at the Library Theatre in June 1957.

He failed to draw audiences with Jean-Paul Sartre’s double bill, The Vicious Circle and The Respectable Prostitute at the Library Theatre in 1957. Towards the end of the same year, Cecil brought out British actor David Kossoff to star in The World of Sholom Aleichem.

He directed The Kimberley Train, which was staged at the Library Theatre in 1958 and in the same year The Long and the Short and the Tall, Blue Denim in 1959.

He directed Guilty Party for the Johannesburg Repertory Society in 1962.

Awards, etc


Tucker, 1997.

Obituary, The Star, 10 May 1979.

Insig (re political activities), October 1999.

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