Michael McGovern

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Michael McGovern (1934- ) is a London-born South African actor and performer.


He began his theatrical career after leaving the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1957, when he auditioned at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London, for the American musical The Pajama Game. When the production was brought on tour to South Africa he took over the leading role of Sid. He decided to stay in South Africa and work in the local theatre.

Michael is married to lovely actress Joan Friedman, and they have three children.


He was a member of the Cockpit Players between 1958 and 1962. When the Cockpit Players disbanded he moved to Johannesburg and stayed until 1966 doing plays and musicals.

In 1966 he returned to England, until PACT lured him back to South Africa in 1971.

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

He starred in the American musical, The Pajama Game in 1958.

He played the part of Algernon in Half in Earnest, a musical version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in 1959.

As a member of the Cockpit Players he played in Try for White (1959), The Matchmaker (1959), The Caretaker (1961), The Tenth Man (1961), The Birthday Party (1962), The Hostage (19**) and The Night of the Iguana (1962).

He played the lead in Hamlet at Maynardville in 1964.

He starred in Anthony Newley’s revue Stop the World – I Want to Get Off which was staged by Adam Leslie for the Johannesburg Reps in 1964, in the JODS production of Frank Loesser’s musical Guys and Dolls which was based on the writings of Damon Runyon at the Civic Theatre in 1965 and in the Toerien-Firth revival of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire with Anne Rogers in 1975.

Michael also starred in Henry IV, Part 1 directed by John Sichel for Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke at His Majesty's Theatre (1976), in Double Edge (1976), I Love my Wife (1978), Da (1979), Stage Struck (1980), Betrayal (PACT in 1980), Tom Foolery (1981), A Walk in the Woods (Market Theatre in 1989).

Michael starred in musicals such as The Most Happy Fella and Irma La Douce

For PACT he played in Betrayal, Child's Play and Applause. Subsequent work includes Othello Slegs Blankes at The Space in Cape Town, Double Edge, Da, Stage Struck and I Love my Wife.

Other productions include A Galway Girl, I Spy, Joggers, Burning Bright, The Andersonville Trial, Gigi (CAPAB 1982), The Hostage, In the Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1971), The Shrew by Charles Marowitz at the Chelsea Theatre in 1975 and in 1980 at the Baxter Theatre.

Other work

He did a considerable amount of cabaret.

Much of his public fame though rests on his work in radio. He made his first film Ride The High Wind in South West Africa (now Namibia) and in 1974 he played in the Roger Moore film, Gold. He hosted Walk Right In for SATV.

For othe film and television work see IMDb [1].

Awards, etc.

He won a Best Actor award for his role in Stop the World – I Want to Get Off.

Michael was nominated for a Vita Award for his role as John Honeyman in A Walk in the Woods, 1990.


SACD 1973; 1975/76; 1978/79; 1980/81; 1981/82.

JODS programme note, The Most Happy Fella (1962).

Tom Foolery theatre programme, 1981.

Tucker, 1997.

Transvaler, 20 July 1990.

Photographs and other material held by NELM.

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