Leon Gluckman

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Leon Gluckman. (1922-1978) Superb actor, director and producer.


He married actress Pamela Reed in July 1956. In 1957 he decided to settle permanently in South Africa. His last production in South Africa, however, was Arthur Miller’s After the Fall. He left in 1964 because of restrictions placed on his work by the apartheid system. He settled in London with his family and never worked in South Africa again.



Initially studied the law at Rhodes University, later completed an M.A. in Literature, after which he travelled extensively, attending training courses at England’s Old Vic School, Yale University, Hollywood Actors Laboratory and the Pasadena Playhouse in the USA.


His theatrical career began while in the South African Navy, when he acted in The Middle Watch at the Little Theatre (Leonard Schach, 1944). Came to prominence at Rhodes as an under-graduate when he played in and directed a student production of Murder in the Cathedral in the Rhodes University Great Hall (1947), later done at the Wits Great Hall (1948). Worked in South African theatre between 1948-1955, touring with the National Theatre Organisation (NTO) throughout 1948 and over the years directing plays and performing for the East Rand Theatre Club, the Johannesburg REPS, the Sarah Sylvia Company and The Cockpit Players. In 1955 he left for the UK at the invitation of André van Gyseghem, to work at the prestigious Nottingham Playhouse. He did so for two years, giving him invaluable experience as both director and actor.

On settling in South Africa in 1957 he was determined to develop local theatre, doing some of his most memorable work. Became a partner in the ticket selling venture Show Service, with Audrey Cobden and founder Percy Tucker. He went into partnership with Taubie Kushlick in March 1959 forming the production company Kushlick-Gluckman.

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

Acting roles over the years included Romeo and Juliet (Johannesburg Reps, 1949), The Eagle Has Two Heads (1949), Liliom (1953), Winterset (1953), The Firstborn (1953), King Lear (1954), Look Back in Anger (1957), Career (1958), The Rope Dancers (1958), Try for White (The Cockpit Players, 1958), Long Day's Journey into Night (1959), The Complaisant Lover (1960), After the Fall (Leonard Schach, 1964).

Often he both directed and performed in plays, e.g. Death of a Salesman (co-directed with Jacob Ben-Ami), Amphitryon 38, and The Same Sky (all in 1952, for the Sarah Sylvia Company), André Obey’s Noah (1955), Inherit the Wind (1959). His other directing credits include Lysistrata (1952), Tartuffe (1952), The Voice of the Turtle (co-directed with Margaret Inglis, 1952), Governor of the Black Rock (1953), King Lear (1954), You Never Can Tell (1954), The Firstborn (1954), Thieves’ Carnival (1958), The School for Scandal (1958), Romanoff and Juliet (1958), The Importance of Being Earnest, Half in Earnest (a musical skit, 1959), Saint Joan (1959), What Shall We Tell Caroline?, The Dock Brief (1959), The Marriage-Go-Round (1959), . The Kimberley Train (1958**??), King Kong (Union Artists, 1959 – which he also helped to produce), The Emperor Jones (1960), A Taste of Honey (1960).

Another facet of his work was revue, and in 1949 he created and staged the revue Xmas Box at the Library Theatre and in 1962 came the phenomenal hit Wait a Minim! at the Intimate Theatre. This was followed by Minim Bili (1963) and Minim Export (1964-67).

As producer he joined forces with others to present inter alia Clare Booth’s The Women (1961), Athol Fugard’s The Blood Knot (1961), Sir Donald and Lady Wolfit (the actress Rosalind Iden) in An Evening of Shakespeare (1962), the Athens Drama Company with Iphigenia in Aulis and Lysistrata (Johannesburg and Cape Town, 1963) and The Red Silk Umbrella (1964).

Leon Gluckman and Taubie Kushlick co-produced Leonard Schach’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which was staged at Technical College Hall in 1956, starring Alec Bell, Gerrit Wessels and Gavin Haughton. Leon (billed as Leon Ryan) was in Australia, co-starring with Katherine Hepburn, in a Shakespeare season with the Old Vic Company in 1956. He sold his Show Service shares to Percy Tucker in 1957. On Gluckman’s return from London in late 1957, he played Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger for the Cockpit Players. He joined forces with Leonard Schach for the fourth time. He returned to the Johannesburg stage in January 1958 in Leonard Schach’s production of the American play Career at the Reps. He directed Anouilh’s Thieves' Carnival for the Reps in 1958. He co-starred with Lydia Lindeque in Taubie Kushlick’s production of The Rope Dancers in 1958.

He directed the National Theatre hit production of The School for Scandal which toured the country, and directed Heather Lloyd-Jones in Romanoff and Juliet at the Reps in 1958. Gluckman and John McKelvey did Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s prizewinning play Inherit the Wind, at the Brooke Theatre in 1959 for Leonard Schach’s Cockpit Players. He also starred in Long Day's Journey into Night at the Intimate Theatre for the Cockpit Players, together with John McKelvey, Joan Blake and Nigel Hawthorne in 1959.

On occasion over the years he acted as an adjudicator for the FATSSA Play Festival.

Awards, etc


Tucker, 1997.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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