Marjorie Gilbey

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Marjorie Gilbey (1917- May 2011) was an actor, speech-trainer, drama mistress.


Marjorie Gilbey was educated at St Michael's School, Bloemfontein , where she got to know Elaine English (later Mrs Jimmy Tasker). She went on to study dramatic art at the Italia Conti Stage School[1] in London. This was followed by studies at the RADA[2] with Ena Grossmith[3]. During that time she did much stage work and acted in The Lake, in 1937, and in 1938, Edward Knoblauch's My Lady's Dress a three-act play which first opened 23rd April, 1913. Both were staged at the Fortune Theatre. This was followed by a season at the Everyman Theatre, Hampstead.

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, she returned to South Africa and for one year she shared a studio in Cape Town, with her sister, Pamela Gilbey, who had trained as a dancer at the Noreen Bush School in London.

She then joined the The Boomerangs, one of the sections of the Union Defence Force Entertainment Unit, and remained with them until her demobilisation in May 1946. Her company toured the Union extensively before being posted to Italy. Mervynne Fernie (later Mrs. Haldane "Hal" Venter), owner and teacher at the Fernie Dance Academy, was also a member of the unit. (During the 2nd World War Hal was in the British SAS and was highly decorated for action behind enemy lines in Greece). When that tour ended, they returned to South Africa before being sent on another posting to the Middle East, where, with the help of Denis Freeman, a well-known London producer serving as an Intelligence Officer attached to the Free French, they became a first-class company. Marjorie Gilbey was one of the last 12 women of the entertainment units to return to the Union from the Middle East.

After her demobilisation she returned to London for a one-year refresher course at the Royal Academy of Music[4].

When that was completed, she moved to Port Elizabeth in June 1947, and became the speech-training and drama mistress at the Junior Collegiate School for Girls in Port Elizabeth and later opened her own drama studio in Newington Road, Port Elizabeth.

She died in Cape Town in May 2011.

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

Marjorie Gilbey produced numerous plays for the Collegiate Schools.

1958: Produced The Silver Curlew by Eleanor Parker which was staged at the Port Elizabeth City Hall by the Junior Collegiate in aid of school funds and charities. Musical Director was Mrs N Cocks with music by Clifton Parker and choreography by The Carter-Summerton Studio of Dancing. The play was based on the Norfolk Fairy Tale, Tom Tit Tot, the English version of "Rumpelstiltzkin." Starring Jill MacIver, Jennifer Merryweather, Marcia Berger, Heather Campbell, Lynn Gordon, Jennifer Pyne-James, Jennifer Crookall, Sandra Kirk, Lesley MacNicol, Pricilla Bredell, Sheila Harding, Margaret Groves, Irmgard Maske, Felicity Hancock, Pamela Lindridge, Marilyn Harris, Patricia Galpin, Carole Levinthal, Naomi McCock, Barbara Wilde, Ruth Goodman, Gill Abel, Jean Connacher, Jennifer Concer, Patricia Brinkman, Patsy Mirkin, Jacqueline Harmer, Carol Trembling, Patricia Goldberg, Sue Donald and Susan Scott. "Puffins" included Marion Alcock, Jane Buchanan, Elizabeth Coy, Elizabeth Grant, Daphne Coburn, Judy Sampson, Gayleen Murdoch, Mary Traill, Susan Matlock, Jennifer Shapiro, Anne Pyne-James, and Glynnis Brown.


Saturday Post, July 26, 1947.

Original theatre program of The Silver Curlew.

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