Ron Fenton (1935-2018) was an actor, playwright and theatre personality, best known for his contribution to South African theatre in the 1960s and 1970s.
Born Ronald Edgar Fenton to in Hounslow, Middlesex UK, in 1935. As a child during the 2nd World War, Ron admits he found it an exciting time, fighter planes, air warden drills, and Soldiers in his village. He also said he remembers riding his bike over the Heath, before it became Heathrow Airport. And it was when watching his parents act during the war, that inspired Ron to act himself.
Ron joined the Merchant Navy in 1956. Thus given him the opportunity to travel to far and exotic countries. He also took part in Merchant Navy Training videos.
It was while working as an engineer on the Ship "The Winchester Castle" that Ron met Moreen Walker, who was a passenger travelling back from Rhodesia to UK. They got married in Helensborough, Scotland, on the 1st April 1961. In the same year he left the Merchant Navy to start in a boat yard in Shandon, Scotland, doing general boat repairs.
In 1962 he and Moreen went to settle in Cape Town, South Africa, and lived in Retreat. Hed initially worked in the Internal Combustion Workshop of the Dock Yard in Simons Town, and afterwards in Planning. The couple had three children, Scott, Ross and Frazer. It was in this period that he became actively engaged in Cape Town amateur and professional theatre.
The family went back to England in 1980, where he got a job in planning, and generally lived a conventional life. Initially he did not participate in theatrical activities, but after two years he gradually started writing again and participating in local drama groups, though never again to the extent that he had done in South Africa.
Ron Fenton passed away on the 3rd of June, 2018.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
He began his acting career in South Africa in 1966, and worked extensively with the Maynardville Open-air Shakespeare Theatre, Cape Town (1966 -1975), the Masque Theatre, Muizenberg (1972 - 1979, Bergvliet Dramatic Society (1975), and the Space Theatre, Cape Town (1972 - 1979).
His roles for the Maynardville open-air theatre included "Cornwall's servant" (King Lear 1966); "Sergeant" (Macbeth, 1967), "Pistol" (The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1969), "Senators, Ofﬁces, Messenger and Attendents" (Othello, 1970), "Messenger" (Antony and Cleopatra, 1972), "First Gravedigger" (Hamlet,1975)
For the Masque Theatre he appeared as "Martin Eppingham" in My Giddy Aunt (Cooney and Chapman, 1972), "George Riley" in Enter a Free Man (Stoppard, 1973), "Edward Robinson" in Naked in the Fountain (Ron Fenton, 1976), Beyond The Pale Of Water (Glynn Day, 1976), "Phil Hogan" in A Moon for the Misbegotten (Eugene O’Neill, for The Sons of England Dramatic Society, 1977), "Basher Bates" in Don't Utter a Note (Anton Delmar, 1979).
For the Space Theatre he had roles in The Slab Boys (John Byrne, 1979), Three Thoroughly Offensive Plays for Mother Grundies (1979), In Two Minds (David Mercerat, 1979)
While in South Africa he wrote the plays Naked in the Fountain, A Cowardly Season, Burleigh Nicotinus, The Invalid (1974), Three Knives for the Puppet Master (197*?) and The Hostage Voluntary (1976). On his return to the UK he wrote a few more plays, including Booze and Baccy, Toc-H and Fireman at the Pentecost, as well a number short sketches and monologues.
Awards, accolades, etc
His acting in Stoppard's Enter a Free Man received high accolades from critic Jill Fletcher (1973): "Ron Fenton as the Free man was excellent. Apart from having to learn a monumental part, (he was hardly ever off the stage) he touched the heart of everyone who has leapt off this dry and dusty earth, missed the stars and crashed back to earth again".
E-mail correspondence from Frazer Fenton (April-November, 2016, and 4 June, 2018)
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