Johan Nell

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Johan Nell (19**-1967) ) was a superb Afrikaans actor

(Note the spelling of first and last names: This actor not to be confused with the actor and voice artist Johann Nel)


Born in ***, he was blessed with a fine physique, good looks, and a splendid and resonant voice. He was seen as the natural successor to André Huguenet. His life and career were ultimately destroyed by alcoholism. He died after an operation in March 1967.



He started his career in Cape Town in 1933 with Olga Lindo and Wena Naudé. Thereafter followed an apprenticeship with André Huguenet and Leontine Sagan. He had Shakespearean training with Gwen Frangcon-Davis, and did numerous productions with Taubie Kushlick, the National Theatre and African Theatres (EDS: Is this an abbreviation for African Consolidated Theatres?). He recorded ?? for radio.

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

In a career of fine performances included *** in By die ou Meulstroom, Absalom my Seun!, Geleende Vere ****, Henry VIII (directed by Will Jamieson, with Johan Nell & Margaret Inglis), *** in Eugene O'Neill’s A Touch of the Poet (NTO, 1961), ****. NELL, Johann. Performed in Eugene O'Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra in 1946. Played the brooding Heathcliff opposite Elizabeth Renfield’s Cathy in 1946. Starred in The Witch, staged by the Johannesburg Reps in 1948, together with Berdine Grunewald, Sam Moss and Doreen Mantle. Starred in Leon Gluckman’s revue Xmas Box at the Library Theatre towards the end of 1949. Herbert Kretzmer composed five of the songs and the cast included Marjorie Gordon. He played the lead in King Oedipus in 1950 in Johannesburg. Starred in an Afrikaans translation of John Van Druten’s I Remember Mama in 1954. It was directed by Taubie Kushlick and also starred Wena Naudé and Mathilde Hanekom.

He was seen as Anton Hegelmann in So praat die ou rivier (NTO 1954). Other roles for NTO include Hassan, Macbeth and Iepekonders.

He starred in Clive Hirschhorn’s A State of Innocence which was staged at the Library Theatre in 1960. Ruth Oppenheim directed and it also starred Marjorie Gordon. Performed in Eugene O'Neill’s A Touch of the Poet together with Marda Vanne in the Alexander Theatre in Johannesburg in 1961. Margaret Webster directed this play for the National Theatre. He starred in Toerien-Rubin Company production of James Ambrose Brown’s The Years of the Locust at the Alexander Theatre in 1966. It also starred Frank Shelley and Yvonne Bryceland. NELL, Johan, Henry VIII, Will Jamieson (dir), Ronnie Davis & Margaret Inglis.

He also acted in Cyrano de Bergerac.

Die Nagtegaal (1940s), Xmas Box (1949), Oedipus Rex as Oedipus the King (1950), Macbeth in Afrikaans (as Macduff) in 1950, Ek Onthou vir Mamma (NTO 1954), The Rainmaker (1956), The Crucible (1956), A Touch of the Poet (NTO 1961), Death of a Salesman (1963), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Maynardville 1965), King Lear as Lear (Maynardville 1966), Die Koningin en die Rebelle (1967).

Performed in and directed The Witch (Labia Theatre 1951).

Films include Die Skerpioen (1946) and Sarie Marais (1949).


Three Leaf Arts Award for Best Supporting Actor, 1966, for his role in The Lower Depths.

Three Leaf Arts Award for Best Actor, 1967, for his title role in King Lear.


Henry Eighth theatre programme, 1953.

Rand Daily Mail, 29 March 1967.

Teater SA, 1(3), 1969

So praat die ou rivier programme notes, 1954.

Tucker, 1997.

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