Moira Lister

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LISTER, Moira (1923-2007). Moira Lister de Gachassin-Lafite, Vicomtesse d’Orthez was a South African-born, English film, stage and television actress, and writer. [1]


She studied acting with Dr Hubert and Amy Coleridge and later trained under Leontine Sagan in South Africa. First appearing on stage at the age of six for the University Players, University of the Witwatersrand in The Vikings of Helgeland (1929?), she made her professional debut as a child actress in Vintage Wine (with Sir Seymour Hicks, 1935), followed by her first appearance in London in 1937 in Post Road.

Returning to South Africa she continued her acting career by working with African Consolidated Theatres (playing "Fairy Coraline" in Robinson Crusoe. A Pantomime in 1939-40) and with Muriel Alexander and the Johannesburg REPS, appearing in J.B. Priestley’s When We Are Married (1941), The Women by Claire Booth (directed in 1942 by Leontine Sagan), The Russians (194*) and Pawns of the Game (194*).

She left the country for Britain in 1943/4 to make a career in radio and Shakespeare, before turning to less specialized work on stage, screen and television. Thus she played a season with John Gielgud with plays such as Coward's Present Laughter at the Haymarket Theatre, 1947. On occasion she returned to South Africa to act in shows, usually for Pieter Toerien. These include a Any Wednesday (1964-65), Cowardy Custard (1973), **, **, and My Memories of Noël Coward (2001). She also made a version of Coward's Hay Fever for SABC Television (1983). Made her debut as director with Pieter Toerien Productions, with Eric Paice’s Deadly Embrace at the Leonard Rayne Theatre in Johannesburg in 1987. Her international film credits include The Yellow Rolls Royce, The Deep Blue Sea, and Double Man. She also had her own TV show in the late 1960s. Her autobiography, The Very Merry Moira, appeared in 1969.

Starred in The Women by Clare Boothe, performed by the REPS in 1942, directed by Leontine Sagan. Starred in Peter Ustinov’s The Love of Four Colonels which was performed in England in 1952. She starred in Terence Rattigan’s The Sleeping Prince which Minna Schneier directed for the Reps’ Festival production in 1956, also starring Joss Ackland. She stormed the country with her one-woman show, People in Love, in 1958. It was dramatisations of stories of the American Dorothy Parker. Lister’s stage management team included Kevin Maybury and Sven van Zyl. She starred in Cowardy Custard together with David Kernan and Graham Armitage. It was directed by Freddie Carpenter and staged by Pieter Toerien at the Civic Theatre in 1973. Together with Nigel Davenport she starred in Roger Redfarn’s production of Murder Among Friends which Pieter Toerien transferred to His Majesty’s Theatre in 1977 after a successful run at the Civic. She starred in Pieter Toerien’s production of John Chapman and Dave Freeman’s Key for Two together with Gordon Mulholland and Rex Garner at the Alhambra in 1982 before Pieter’s run at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. She directed Deadly Embrace starring Sandra Duncan and Jeremy Crutchley at the Leonard Rayne Theatre in 1987. She starred in Peter Shaffer’s Lettice and Lovage in 1988. She starred in Bob Randall’s The Fan in 1994. *

[TH, JH]


Mona de Beer. 1995. Who Did What in South Africa. Johannesburg: Ad Donker.

P.J. du Toit. 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica

Peter Joyce. 1999. A Concise Dictionary of South African Biography. Cape Town: Francolin Publishers.

Percy Tucker. 1997. Just the Ticket. My 50 Years in Show Business. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

Scrapbook held by NELM: [Collection: LISTER, Moira]: 2007. 20. 6. 1.

African Consolidated Theatres Ltd dramatic contract dated 8 December 1939 for the Robinson Crusoe pantomime, held by NELM.

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