Shelagh Holliday

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Shelagh Holliday (1930-2010) was a South African actress.


Born Shelagh Kerry Wright in Johannesburg on 20 October 1930, actress Shelagh Holliday was educated at and matriculated from Parktown Convent for Girls, today known as Holy Family College. Always keen on acting, at the age of seventeen she was sent to England to study with Rose Bruford, who taught drama at the Royal Academy of Music . After four years she returned to South Africa and in 1953 married Robin Holliday, whom she had met when she had a job at the library of the University of the Witwatersrand. They had continued to date in England while he was studying at Cambridge University. He later became the Chairman of GNK SA and the couple had four children.

Tall and elegant, Holliday was a versatile actress, at home in everything from farce (often for Rex Garner) and the sophisticated comedies of Noel Coward (amongst them Private Lives, Hay Fever and Blithe Spirit), to Shakespeare (Queen Eleanor in King John for PACT and Gertrude in a television version of Hamlet), and modern classics like Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day's Journey into Night and Athol Fugard’s A Lesson from Aloes. Though her professional career started with dancing in the chorus of Anthony Farmer productions for £5 a week, by 1980 she was nominated alongside the likes of Frances Delatour, Joan Plowright and Glenda Jackson for the Society of West End Theatre’s Best Actress Award (later the Laurence Olivier Awards) for A Lesson from Aloes, which had been produced at the National Theatre. The staging of this production was filmed for the BBC’s Arena slot by Ross Devenish and also featured Marius Weyers and Bill Curry.

Especially during the first half of her career, Holliday was primarily based in Johannesburg, but as her children grew up, her work also took her to other centres. Though she featured in a number of films, she never had any major roles in important productions and television didn’t attract her much either. She was dismissive of a series like Hospital (1980), though she received good reviews for her performance as Gertrude in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1983), directed by Ken Leach. She also did a lot of radio work. She died after suffering a stroke at her home in Bryanston on 28 May 2010. Her husband had predeceased her in October 2003. Their daughter, Cassandra Holliday, followed her mother onto the stage.



1957 – The Housetop (Director: Pat Causton for YMCA), 1958 – Ever Since Eve (Director: Anthony Farmer), 1959 – I Spy (Director: Anthony Farmer), 1961 – Platonic Nymph (Director: Brian Brooke), 1961 – Women of Twilight (Director: Stuart Brown), 1963 – Private Lives (Directors: Margaret Inglis & Robert Langford), 1965 – Busybody (Director: Hugh Goldie), 1965 – The Tender Trap (Director: Ricky Arden), 1967 – Night Must Fall (Directors: Margaret Inglis & Robert Langford), 1968 – A Flea in Her Ear (Director: Albert Ninio), 1968 – Finger Trouble (Director: Robert Kirby), 1969 – The Secretary Bird (Director: Kerry Jordan), 1970 – King John (Director: Francois Swart), 1971 – Impossible People (Director: Margaret Inglis), 1971 – Applause (Director: Otto Pirchner for JODS), 1971 – Move Over Mrs. Markham (Director: Ray Cooney), 1972 – Miss Adams Will Be Waiting (Director: Rex Garner), 1973 - Charley’s Aunt (Director: Frank Shelley for PACT), 1973 – Two and Two Make Sex (Director: Rex Garner), 1974 – Hay Fever (Director: John Hussey for PACT), 1975 – Adam Scrapes the Barrel (Director: Adam Leslie), 1976 – Double Edge (Director: Anthony Sharp), 1977 – London Assurance (Director: Michael Atkinson for PACT), 1977 – Blithe Spirit (Director: Rosalie van der Gucht for PACT), 1978 – Dear Daddy (Director: Nigel Patrick), 1978 – A Long Day's Journey into Night (Director: Barney Simon), 1978 – Separate Tables (Director: Malcolm Farquhar), 1978 – A Lesson from Aloes (Director: Athol Fugard), 1979 – Present Laughter (Director: John Hussey), 1980 – Spider’s Web (Director: Charles Hickman), 1981 – Wings (Director: Hilary Blecher), 1981 – The Glass Menagerie (Director: Lucille Gillwald), 1981 – Moving (Director: Rex Garner), 1982 – The Dresser (Director: Leonard Schach), 1982 – 84 Charing Cross Road (Director: Leonard Schach), 1982 – Fallen Angels (Director: Michael Atkinson), 1982 – The Importance of Being Earnest (Director: John Hussey), 1983 – The Hollow (Director: Kim Grant), 1984 – Other Places (Director: Bobby Heaney), 1985 – The War at Home (Director: Lucille Gillwald), 1985 – Equus (Directors: Rex Garner & Robert Whitehead), 1985 – Murder at the Vicarage (Director: Rex Garner), 1986 – Uncle Vanya (Director: Richard Haines), 1988 – Legends (Director: Rex Garner), 1990 – Mrs Klein (Director: Robert Whitehead), 1992 – Gigi (Director: Francois Swart for PACT), 1993 – The Best of Friends (Director: Mark Graham), 1994 – A Far Country (Director: John Carson), 1995 – An Old Lady’s Guide to Survival (Director: Maralin Vanrenen), Agnes of God (Director: Murray McGibbon).


1971 – Die Banneling (Director: David Millin), 1972 – The Winners / My Way (Directors: Emil Nofal & Roy Sargeant), 1973 – Vinkel en Koljander / Oh Brother..! (Director: Roy Sargeant), 1974 – Vreemde Wêreld (Director: Jürgen Goslar), 1977 – Golden Rendezvous (Director: Ashley Lazarus), 1979 – Follow That Rainbow (Director: Louis Burke), 1984 – Torn Allegiance (Director: Alan Nathanson), 1999 – Heel against the Head (Director: Rod Stewart).


1976 – You’re so good to me Jonesy (TV short) (Director: Cecil Jubber), 1976 – The Wonderful World of Dr. Monk (TV short) (Director: Alan Nathanson), 1980 – Hospital (TV series) (Director: Douglas Bristow), 1982 – Moving (TV Play) (Director: Peter Bode), 1983 - Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (TV play) (Director: Ken Leach), 1985 – In Broad Daylight (TV short), 1986 – Heroes (TV series) ((Director: Manie van Rensburg), 1986 – Orpen House (TV series), 1987 – A Lesson from Aloes (TV movie, only transmitted in 1991) (Director: Peter Goldsmid), 1987 – The Soldier’s Tale (narrator) (Director: Roy Sargeant), 1993 – Daisy (TV series) (Director: Annie Basson), 1995 – Tales of Mystery and Imagination (TV series) (Director: Hugh Whysall).


She won a Best Actress award for The Secretary Bird and A Lesson from Aloes and was nominated for A Long Day's Journey into Night and Wings.


Cape Times, 8 June 2010

Rand Daily Mail, 6 June 2010 (and many other issues)

Sunday Times, 14 March 1993 (and many other issues)

SACD 1973; 1974; 1977/78; 1978/79; 1979/80.

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