Natala Korel

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Natala Korel (b. Cape Town, 12/04/1904 – d. **/**/1999, Ludlow, Shropshire) was a writer and stage producer.


Born Norah Lilian Katzin, Natala Korel was the daughter of Russian-born Isaac (Itzhak) Katzin and his wife, London-born Matilda Litoun. The family seems to have come to Cape Town in 1903 and Norah was the second of their seven children to have been born in South Africa. Here Isaac (known as John) became the managing director of Empire Steam Laundries, which later merged with Nannucci Ltd. It's not certain where she received her dramatic training, but her older sister Olga studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and in 1923 Norah and her sister Hilda also travelled to England, with the ship’s manifest identifying them as students.

A Rand Daily Mail of 1939 stated that at that time Natala Korel had been involved in the theatre for 15 years, starting as an actress with the Macdona Players, though she may not have been with them when the company first came to Johannesburg in 1925. She also toured with various English repertory companies. In addition she had produced plays in several European cities, principally in Berlin, while her social comedy Fruit of Knowledge was said to have been bought for production by the Josefstadt Theatre in Vienna. Prior to coming to South Africa she had been buying plays for a North European firm, while in Norway she did much script writing.

It is not known when and why she became Natala Korel. In 1934 she first came to South Africa for a lecture tour and the archival file refers to her as Norah Katzin. However, when, in 1939 she returned to South Africa for a theatrical engagement, she was known as Natala Korel. During that time the group referred to in the newspapers as the Korel Players staged George and Margaret and The Dominant Sex at the Standard Theatre in Johannesburg. In June 1940 Norah Korel-Katzin arrived back in England and details about her activities after that are sketchy. It was reported that before she left for South Africa she had signed a contract to make two short films for a British company, but it is not known what they were and indeed whether they were made.

In 1943 the BBC presented her radio play The Scholarship, about an old singing master and a young Polish girl in Warsaw, which was produced by Walter Rilla and starred a young Shelagh Fraser. A radio play entitled Le Martyre des Maïtres by her and “Claude Ferdal” was transmitted in Switzerland in 1947. Natala Korel’s eldest sister, Winifred Katzin, became a respected theatrical translator, author and publishing director, while Olga Katzin became a prominent actress who married fellow actor Hugh Miller. Their younger brother, Alfred, eventually became Under Secretary General of the United Nations.

(Note: In 1943 a young man called Claude Henri Guy Michel de la Fère was picked up by a patrol vessel off the coast of Dover. He claimed to have escaped from occupied France by canoe and after interrogation his story was accepted. He later joined the French section of the BBC. The following year the police visited the home of Natala Korel-Katzin in Dolphin Square, London, where he was now staying. Both he and Natala were questioned in what seems to have been an aggressive manner, casting doubt upon their bona fides, not least because, as was observed, she was 18 years older than he was. It is not clear what their relationship was, but when she died in 1999 at the age of 95, her name was given as Norah Lilian de la Fère. Incidentally, de la Fère’s name appears on a list of Special Operations Executive agents and his official file cannot be opened until 01/01/2031.)


Rand Daily Mail, 15/03/1939

The Zionist Record, 21 April 1939

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