Paul de Groot

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Paul de Groot (1878-1942) was a Dutch elocutionist, singer, actor and director.


Born Paul Christiaan de Groot 11 January 1878 in Dutch East India to a father in the Military, trained at the Teaterskool ("Theatre School"), Amsterdam, and apprentice for Eduard Verkade’s De Hagespelers company. After touring internationally with various shows, he rejoined the company in 1921-22. In 1923 joined Anton Verheyen on a tour to Dutch East India where they found chaos as 16 touring companies competed for custom.

His work in South Africa

De Groot claims that he then negotiated with African Theatres, and came to Cape Town in November 1924. His first recital was in the Afrikaanse Koffiehuis, and his first produced plays Zaken zijn Zaken ("Business is Business" - Mirbeau) in December 1924 and Overschotje (Scampolo by Niccodemi) in January 1925, both at the Railway Institute, Cape Town.

After touring a few towns, he devised and publicised a plan for the first Afrikaans professional theatre company. His first recital in Pretoria was on 2 April, 1925, in the Nationale Klubsaal ("National Club Hall") of the Nederlandse Vereniging, followed again by two plays in Dutch - De Gentleman Inbreker ("The Gentleman Housebreaker" Raffles?) and Claire Bellerosa on 23 April in the same venue. More significantly, two original Afrikaans plays - Lenie (J.H.H. de Waal) and Die Heks ("The Witch", C. Louis Leipoldt) - were presented in the Opera House, Pretoria, on 2 May 1925, in association with Stephanie Faure and utilizing the cream of local amateur performers including Iris Martin, Wena Naudé, Jessie Breedt and De Groot himself (*??). On 9th July 1925 he opened with a successful production of Huis Toe (Heimat by Südermann, tr A.E Carinus-Holzhausen) and in June 1926 he joined forces with Hendrik Hanekom, to found the Paul de Groot Toneelgeselskap. The company initially consisted of Hendrik Hanekom (Business manager), Mathilde Hanekom, Simon Malherbe, and Anna Marais from the Hanekom Company, Paul de Groot (Artistic director) and Wena Naudé from the former De Groot group and two novices, Gert Borstlap and Maxie Botha.

Their first production was Huis Toe (Südermann - 1926), then As Mans Huishou (Jan van Ees - 1927), Gerieflike Huwelik (A. Dumas snr - 1927), Die Inbreker (Van Ees, 1927, toured by a second company led by Wena Naudé) and Besigheid is Besigheid (Octave Mirbeau, 1928). In March 1928 (Binge has 15 March 1929) Hanekom and De Groot split company, apparently because of De Groot's avarice. De Groot continued on his own, touring i.a. with Rosekrans (Barclay/Bisson) with Lydia Lindeque, Haar Twede Man (Géraldy) with André Huguenet (Gert Borstlap renamed), Henry van Wyk and Rena la Roche and Geleende Geld (Ibsen) with Hélène Botha, Huguenet, Van Wyk, Peter Coetzee. Both very successful. By the end of 1929 he had already (by Binge's calculations) produced and toured with 8 Afrikaans plays (a total of 891 performances) and briefly returned to Europe for a while, then continued with Rosekrans till October 1930.

In 1931 he undertakes a short (3 month) "world tour" to the Belgian Congo and India as part of a Dutch company. He returns April 1931 and forms a new company to celebrate his 25 jubileum and to tour with Besigheid is Besigheid again (83 performances). The cast consists of a number of Free State amateurs, including Lydia Lindeque, Roekie van Rensburg, J. Lückhoff, David Muller, F. Botten and P. van Ingen. He then goes on to do Die Verliefde Indringer (later known as Die Oorwinnaar- 1932) and Bodemvas (1932) a dramatisation of S. Bruwer's Afrikaans novel, the latter in association with the Universiteit van Stellenbosch se Dramatiese Vereniging. The cast included Yvonne Liebenberg in the lead, and Maria van Dyk, P.J. Loots, Margeret Webb, Gideon Boshoff, Nic Laubscher, J. Scholtz and Elsa Dreyer. The play failed miserably.

He is now invited to work under the auspices of African Theatres and does Verborge Sonde (La Monaco by Pierre Frondaie) with Henriëtte de Waal (August-October 1933), Misdade van die Vaders ("Misdeed of the Fathers" by Albert du Biel), Kain (also by Du Biel - 1934). This cast consists of Henriëtte de Waal, Bettie Reitz, Nell van Nieuwenhuizen, Rosa du Plessis, John Brill, Johannes Coetzee, Dewald van der Merwe, Tommie Beckley and Frits de Lange. The next play is Eerloos ("Without Honour" by **, translated by A.J.A. Roux - 1935) and opens in the Eendragsaal in Johannesburg with Tommie Beckley, Hetta Beckley, Queenie Vorster, Jacobus Swanepoel and Jan Swiegers.

After South Africa

In April 1935 De Groot substitutes for Walter Huston in the Gaumont-British film on Cecil John Rhodes and the company breaks up. In 1935 he also married an English widow, Katherine May Harris (born Manchester 1896) and returned to Holland to live in Wassenaar and work in films, then seemed to disappear.

His impact

De Groot had an enormous artistic influence on the growth of Afrikaans theatre, both in terms of technique and quality (an autocratic director of the Meininghen school, he insisted on effective texts and quality staging), and of theatre administration. If nothing else he discovered and trained numerous prominent theatre personalities, among the most notable of them being André Huguenet, Lydia Lindeque, Siegfried Mynhardt and Wena Naudé, who all had an enormous impact on the development of indigenous professional theatre, particularly in Afrikaans. Die Rosekrans, Besigheid is besigheid, Paul de Groot se reisende toneelgroep met Lydia Lindeque.


Ludwig Binge, 1969

André Huguenet, 1950

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