Geoffrey Sutherland (1941-1992) was a lecturer, dancer, director and choreographer.
Born in Britain, he trained in movement at the famous Laban School, where he later lectured in Dance and Drama at the Laban Studio in Surrey. He first came to South Africa in July of 1967 to lecture in movement at the Speech and Drama Department of the University of Natal in Durban. One of his first major theatrical productions in Durban was a remarkable open-air production in Mitchell Park of the danced Nativity, Navidad Nuestra, which he not only conceived, produced and choreographed, but also designed and danced in.
He first worked for NAPAC in 1971 when he directed a new stage adaptation of the delightful A. A. Milne stories about ‘’Winnie-the-Pooh’’, to be followed over the years by a range of other productionns.
He later moved to Johannesburg where he formed his own dance group, Kinetika, mounting the musical ‘’Man of la Mancha’’, choreographed ‘’The Canterbury Tales’’ and lectured in the Drama Department of the University of the Witwatersrand. It was at this time that he first began working with the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal, choreographing dance sequences for opera productions, later becoming a resident producer and choreographer for PACT and creating ballets and directing a number of major productions for the organisation. His major breakthrough for them came with the spectacular success of ‘’Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’’.
In 1986 NAPAC created a Musical Theatre Department and they appointed Sutherland as head, a position in which he would go on to do a series of remarkable productions.
Sadly Sutherland died of pneumonia in 1992 aged 51.
Contribution to South African theatre and performance
He directed Canterbury Tales for the JODS at the Civic Theatre, in 1970. He directed and choreographed Man of La Mancha for JODS in 1971. He did the choreography for the JODS production Applause at the Civic in 1971. Choreography was taken over by Wendy de la Harpe after dissatisfaction from the director. He choreographed the PACT production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, directed by John Hussey, and starring Richard Loring, Bruce Millar and Alvon Collison at the Alexander in 1974. He directed and choreographed the South Afrcian version of the musical Chicago in January 1977 at the Alexander Theatre. It starred Annabel Linder and Judy Page and Hazel Feldman did publicity. He directed PACT’s production of The Archon at the Civic in 1979. His production of Joan Littlewood’s Oh! What a Lovely War starring Judy Page, Michael Richard, Gay Lambert, Michael McCabe, James White and Erica Rogers was staged by PACT in 1980. He directed NAPAC and CT Productions’ Snoopy!!! starring Tim Plewman, Mark Richardson and Cathy Cota, at the Space Frame theatre in 1984. He directed Peer Gynt at the Durban Alhambra for NAPAC in October 1985. He directed The Pirates of Penzance starring Clive Scott, Julie Wilson, Edwin van Wyk and Colleen-Rae Holmes for NAPAC which was brought to the Civic by PACT in December 1986. He choreographed The Great Waltz with direction by David Matheson which opened at the State Theatre in 1987. He directed and choreographed the musical Singin’ in the Rain in 1988. He directed Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in 1989. He directed Romance, Romance in 1990. Together with Andrew Botha and Graham Scott he created Queen at the Opera which opened at the Durban Playhouse in 1990, He directed and choreographed Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar at the Durban Playhouse in 1991. He directed the combined performing arts council’s production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in 1990/91.
Teater SA, 1(3), 1968.
Robert N. Cross. 1992. "Obituary" in Natalia No 22 (1992) (pp.71-71)
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