James Whyle

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James Whyle (1955-). Actor, playwright, journalist, poet and novelist.


Grew up in the Amatole Mountains of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Conscripted into the apartheid army in 1980, he was discharged on the grounds of having "an immature personality with tendencies towards neurosis".

Besides acting on stage and in film, he has published poetry, short stories, journalism, plays and novels.

He is married with three children and lives in Johannesburg.


He studied at the Rhodes University Drama Department until 1976.


Acting career


Among his screen credits as an actor are the films Sarafina, Place of Weeping, 10th of a Second and The Stick.


In 199* he co-founded the Take Away Shakespeare Company, with Lynne Maree and Sean Taylor.

As an actor

As a student he appeared in The Relapse (1974), Oh What a Lovely War! (1975), The Owl and the Pussycat (1976). He had roles in Amadeus (1981) Sweeney Todd (1982), Scavenger's Dream (1983), his own play National Madness (1983), Bicycle Riders, Serpent's Mate, True West (1983), West (1984), Outers (1985), Rainshark (1991), an adaptation of Julius Caesar (1995).

As a director

Productions directed include King Lear (Take Away Shakespeare Company, 1998), Antony and Cleopatra (1999).


Whyle is a member of the South African Screen Writers Union, (SASWU) and a full time writer since 1994. Besides writing for stage, radio and TV, he also writes feature articles for Playboy, Style and Sunday Times Lifestyle magazines, and has published a number of prose works.


His first play, National Madness , based on his experience in, and escaping from, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), was written in 1981 and performed at the Market Theatre and the Baxter Theatre in the early eighties. It was published in a collection - Market Plays (edited by Stephen Gray, 1986).

His second play, Hellhound, was an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Richard III and was staged at Upstairs at the Market in 1992.

Quoted from Outers programme notes wherein he played the role of Richard: 'Is the author of National Madness, in which he appeared in The Laager at the Market Theatre, where he was also seen in Serpent's Mate and recently in Bicycle Riders. Last year, he appeared in Cape Town in Sam Shepard's True West and in Steven Berkoff's West, for which he received a Fleur du Cap Best Supporting Actor nomination. In review, he starred locally in a A Letter for Michael and Cultural Clap. Was seen in The Company's production of Sweeney Todd at the Market Theatre.'


He turned from acting to full time writing in 1994 when, for the first time, it became possible for the real issues of South Africa to be addressed on South African Television. Since then he has worked as consultant/writer/head writer on Hard Copy (TV3), Zero Tolerance (TV2), Snitch 11 (M-Net)and is a senior writer on Isidingo (TV3).


He also writes radio plays for the BBC One of his radio dramas, commissioned by the BBC, is A Man Called Rejoice which was first broadcast in , and re-broadcast for the third time in May 2004.

The text was published as Rejoice Burning in the UK in New South African Plays (Charles Fourie) by Aurora Metro Publications.

Dancing with the Dead was broadcast in the U.K. in February 2002 on Radio 4. The leading role was played by Richard E. Grant.


A short story,Sapper Fijn and the Cow appears in The Penguin Book of Contemporary South African Short Stories, while The Story was the winner of the 2011 Pen/Studzinski competition.

His novels include The Art of War (2012 - Winner of the M-Net Literary Award for debut novel, 2013) and Walk (2013).

Awards, etc.

In 1982 he received a merit award for his play National Madness, Amstel Playwright of the Year.


Outers programme notes in 1985.

Beeld, 10 January 1985.




Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

IMDb [1].

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