Peter Prowse

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Peter Prowse (b. Durban, 09/02/1924 – d. Sandton, 12/10/1976) was an actor, writer, producer and film director.


Peter John Prowse was born in Durban, the son of Harry Prowse, an ex-Indian Army officer, and his wife Constance Davies. At some stage the family moved to England and his first verified performance was when, in a programme presented by the Keyberry (Newton Abbot) Sunday Scholars at the Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society, Master Peter Prowse gave the opening and closing recitations. After World War II he embarked upon a professional acting career, appearing in everything from the children’s play Where the Rainbow Ends, in which he played St. George, and Charley's Aunt, to Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion and Sheriff’s The Long Sunset, both at the Mermaid Theatre (1961). He also appeared in a number of films and television plays, though seldom in major roles. These included parts in The Battle of the River Plate (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger/1956) and Becket (Peter Glenville/1964).

In the meantime his family had returned to South Africa and, after the death of his father in 1963, so did he. His first project was a film called Tokoloshe (1965), for which he brought out his fellow South African (Sid) Sidney James to play the part of a blind ex-sailor who befriends a young Zulu boy. This was followed by a number of stage appearances: Trap for a Lonely Man (1966) and The Constant Wife (1966), both directed by James Gillhouley for the Johannesburg Reps at the Alexander Theatre, and the long-running and regularly revived Diary of a Madman (1967), a one-man show directed by Gerald Wilson presented throughout the country. This was followed by two more one-man shows, readings from A Christmas Carol (1971) at the Tollman Towers, and Brief Lives (1973) at the Blue Fox Restaurant Theatre. In 1966 he presented a revue called Folk-Trek at the Intimate Theatre, which featured Des and Dawn Lindberg and others, while in 1971 he produced Dear Liar, starring Hugh Rouse and Diane Wilson.

An unreliable fantasist and inveterate dreamer, he frequently announced projects that did not, in the end, materialize, but that did succeed in keeping him in the public eye. Sometimes these actions had nothing to do with the theatre, such as his “kidnapping” of 18-year-old Carla Assunta Rosa Bagattini, which led to court appearances. They were married in September 1965 and divorced in 1968. He had been married before and there was a child from each marriage. He died unexpectedly at the Lone Hill Studios at Bryanston. It is reported that actress Juliet Prowse was a second cousin.

(Note: He is also reported to be the author of a play called Boss Woman, which was staged in both England and France starring actress Marpessa Dawn, but is sometimes credited to one Synder Ferlingetti, who doesn’t seem to exist.)

(Trivia: Amongst his most outlandish ideas were a film about the Battle of Blood River, starring either Rod Steiger or Orson Welles as Piet Retief, and a proposal to present stage shows on jumbo jets. It is also reported that at the premiere of Tokoloshe, some 200 blind men and women would be able to follow the story by means of an action script printed in braille, which was actually quite a good idea.)


In 1968 he and Michael McCabe shared the Stuart Leith Trophy for Best Actor, he for Diary of a Madman and McCabe for The Creeper.


Western Times, 13 March 1933

Rand Daily Mail (many issues)

Diary of a Madman programme, 1968.

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