John Nankin

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John Nankin (19**-) Designer, actor, stage manager, director.


John Nankin joined The Space Theatre in 1973 as a stage designer and set builder directing plays in the venue’s fringe under the mentorship of Brian Astbury. In the late 1970s, he participated in experimental performance workshops with Chas Unwin, Jacqui Singer, Marcel van Heerden, Barney Simon and others; before co-initiating the avant-garde and now historic Glass Theatre with Chris Pretorius in Cape Town in 1981, a group whose ground-breaking work was informed by a return to Surrealism and Dada.

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

Ninkon worked at The Space Theatre, Cape Town, as stage designer and set builder from 1974, later also directing plays in the venue’s fringe under the mentorship of Brian Astbury.

His work for The Space in the 1970s include designs for Don't Drink the Water, Edith Piaf – Je Vous Aime, Endgame, The Exception and the Rule, The First South African, The Glass Menagerie, Lesson in Blood and Roses, Luv, Medea, My Husband’s wild desires almost drove me mad, Outcry, Patty Hearst, Play it again, Sam; Sticks and Bones, Superman and Treats.

John acted in Don't Drink the Water, Picnic on the Battlefield, Tsafendas and What the Butler Saw.

He directed Four Twins, In Two Minds, Patty Hearst and Sticks and Bones, and was stage manager for The Exception and the Rule. His production of Arrabal’s The Car Cemetery at The People's Space was banned by the Publications Control Board.

In 1981 he co-initiated the avant-garde Glass Theatre group with Chris Pretorius in Cape Town, For Glass Theatre he was involved in the productions More Mysteries of Love and Battle! in 1981.

John and Chris Pretorius developed a play, Sex...Female, based on Dario Fo's Ulrike Meinhoff; Sex: Female; Communist in the 1980s.

In 1984 he co-founded the Possession Arts collective, a Johannesburg-based artists’ collective, associated with performance and installation, in 1984, inter alia creating a work called Mama Papa Kaka in collaboration with Ivor Powell, as part of the first program shown by Possession.

In 2010 he co-created the performance venue ZINK in Tamboerskloof, where he has produced a number of performances, including Shakespeare’s Chair, Mama Papa Kaka (a leg to stand on) and 4:14 (Simulator/Mute).

John works in the film industry as a production designer and art director.

Awards, etc


Astbury 1979.

Insig, 31 January 1989.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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