Will Jamieson

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Actor. (1915-1968) Actor, designer and director.

Born in Forfar in Scotland 28 June, 1914 in Forfar, Angus, Scotland. The family came to Port Elizabeth when he was quite young (possibly 9 years old). His younger brother, Ean was born in Port Elizabeth in 1924. He completed his schooling at Grey High School and went on to train in theatre at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, having been awarded the Leverhulme Scholarship for the most promising student in his class. He won the bronze medal there in his final year during the RADA Annual Public Performance at the Aldwych Theatre.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he toured as a professional and associated with many of the famous professionals of the day.

He then served in the RAF during the war and was stationed in West Africa. After the war, he returned to South Africa as leading man to Nan Munro in the Munro-Inglis Company and was also associated with Gwen ffrangcon-Davies.

He was the producer for the first repertory season of the Brian Brooke Company in Cape Town and then joined the National Theatre Company as one of its leading players.

He returned to Port Elizabeth and married Hilda Chapman in St Columba’s Presbyterian Church in Port Elizabeth in 1946. He became a highly respected free-lance actor and producer; one who used to do many of the costume designs for his own productions.

He died in Cape Town in 1968 from a heart attack. Hilda died in 1998 in the UK.

Theatrical career in South Africa

In 1950 he produced Twelfth Night for Pemads, the first post-war Shakespearean production in Port Elizabeth. The play was staged in the City Hall from October 18 - 21. Although it received only lukewarm reviews it was looked back upon bt those who participated as a wonderful milestone.

He was for many years very closely involved with PEMADS and the Little Theatre in Port Elizabeth, and the Port Elizabeth Shakespearian Festival; and later became one of the founding members of the Mannville Open Air Theatre in St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth.

Also did work for many other companies in the country over the years, including productions by Maynardville, Gwen ffrangçon-Davies, Brian Brooke; the Munro-Inglis Company and NTO. He was involved with Brian Brooke around the late 1940’s / early 1950’s, before he established the Brooke Theatre in Jhb in 1955.

As an actor

In 1952 he acted the role of Creon during the Company of Four's production of Jean Anouilh's Antigone. As an actor he had roles in, inter alia, in Christopher Fry's The Lady's not for Burning (the Arena Theatre Company, Johannesburg, 1956). For Maynardville, he did a number of performances, including the Merchant in The Merchant of Venice in 1963, and the King of Denmark in Hamlet in 1964, and his performance there was in 1966. He played the Earl of Kent in King Lear at Maynardville in January 1966. (See the Maynardville archives[1])

As a director and designer

circa 1943-1946: Will Jamieson staged Hay Fever in Grahamstown. Honor Edmonds was the lead player.

February 13, 1952. Will Jamieson directed Andre Huguenet's presentation of King Oedipus by Sophocles in Port Elizabeth.

Cast: Andre Huguenet (Oedipus). William Turner (A Priest). Edward Mansfield (Creon). John Hamber (Tiresias). Rupert Bellairs (The Boy). Sally Carroll (Jocasta). Joan Parker and Hilda Jamieson (Attendants to Jacaste).

Geoffrey Harrison (First Messenger). H Alyn Lane (Herdsman). Drasna Salters (Antigone). Rene Steenkamp (Ismene). Maurice Weightman (Chorus Leader). Robin Parker (Second Voice).

Chorus of Theban Elders: Peter Millard, Hilton Pegg, Stephen Rein, Peter Brand, John Allen, Neil Zeeman, Jock Fisher, Peter Dixon, Wintan Ferreira, Keith Pegg, Cecil Steyn, Danie Vermaak, Melville Oosthuizen and Rex Finlay.

Guards: Graham Elburg, Lawrence Shepstone, Walter Stotter and Nico Smith.

Temple Maidens: Hazel Muller, Patricia Stow, Patience White, Peggy Tait, Dawn Robertson, Dorine Charles.

The Guards: Benny Ossher’a Physical Culture Institute. Set designer: Roy Cook and built by African Consolidated Theatres Ltd. Costumes: Geoffrey Long. Lighting: H Alyn Lane. Stage Manager: Wolf Grunhuber. House manager: Harold Davidson. (by courtesy of PE Dramatic and Operatic Society). Coiffures: Pierre of Salon Charles. Programme Cover: Maurice Weightman. Personal Assistant to Mr Huguenet: Phyllis Davidson.

Also in 1952 he produced the Company of Four's presentation of Jean Anouilh's Antigone

King Henry VIII, ran from June 1 - 6, 1953, and was under the auspices of the committee set up to organise the celebrations in connection with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Will Jamieson was called back to take charge of King Henry VIII which was really a play-cum-pageant.

The huge stage of the Feather Market Hall was converted into a magnificent set reminiscent of Wolsey's Hampton Court.

There was music, dancing, choirs and processions, with Robert Selley in charge of the musical side.

Rehearsals for this were indeed a matter of sweat, toil and tears, the actors often going home in the early hours, utterly exhausted after all-night stormy sessions with the despairing producer.

Most memorable was Johann Nell's portrayal of Wolsey, while the ending was the prophetic culminating speech over the infant Princess Elizabeth, finely declaimed by John Hamber in his part as Archbishop Cranmer.

All the leading actors of the city took part including Ronald Davis, Brocas Harris, Christine Hamilton-Cox, Maurice Weightman, Peggy English and Leicester Walton.

As director Jamieson did Twelfth Night, with John Hamber, in the Loubser Hall (Later the The Little Theatre), Port Elizabeth; King Henry VIII (dir) Ronnie Davis, Johann Nell & Margaret Inglis. Our Town (Dir), Hamlet (dir) with Jim Shorrock, The Taming of the Shrew (dir) 1964.**

For the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival he directed King Lear in 1960, The Lark by Jean Anouilh in 1961, Hamlet in 1963 and The Taming of the Shrew in 1964.

Radio career

While he also had a short career in the SABC, Jamieson found himself ideologically incompatible with the censorship laws, one which he held strong views. According to his daughter (Fiona Jamieson, 2013) he is reported to have said ”and that’s a load of bull****” at the end of a live newscast - whilst still on air - which meant that he was sent packing!

Notes from Fiona Jamieson


I am the daughter of Will Jamieson, an actor and producer mentioned in your database who was very much involved with the South African theatre scene many years ago,

He was born in 1915, and died in 1968, aged just 53. He also played a number of roles at Maynardville in the early 60’s.

I think ESAT is a much-needed enterprise and if I can verify anything more regarding my father’s life and work I would be happy to do so.

Kind Regards Hi Temple,

More than happy to help! My son and my brother both live in Cape Town and my brother has a few scrapbooks and souvenirs from my father’s time in the theatre so we will all get together as much as we can;)

I am living in Spain and my bits and pieces are all in storage in the UK so I’m just working on memory;)

I do know he was born in Forfar in Scotland in 1915 and died in Cape Town in 1968 from a heart attack.

He was awarded the Leverhulme Scholarship at the Academy of Dramatic Art in London and won the bronze medal there in his final year.

He was married to Hilda Chapman who died in 1998 in the UK.

If you look at the archives for Maynardville (http://www.maynardville.co.za/pages/archive.php) you will find his name a few times – his last performance there was in 1966, but I do know he played the Merchant in the Merchant of Venice in 1963, and the King of Denmark in Hamlet in 1964.

I’ll get back to you when I have more!

Thanks for your kind words about my sites – I believe I inherited some of my dad’s creativity with colour and design – I know he used to do many of the costume designs for his own productions! Hi Temple,

A bit more info - Extracts from an email from my brother with what he can remember;) he is going to try and extricate the scrapbooks which are currently in storage;)

“As far as I know, Dad was born on 28 June, 1914 in Forfar, Angus, Scotland. The family came to Port Elizabeth when he was quite young. Can’t say exactly when, but Ean (younger brother) was born in PE in 1924 so it was before then. I think Dad was 9 when they came to PE. He did go to Grey in PE. Mom and Dad were married in St Columba’s Presbyterian Church in PE in 1946.

Dad served in the RAF in the war and was stationed in West Africa.

He was involved with Brian Brooke around the late 1940’s / early 1950’s before he established the Brooke Theatre in Jhb in 1955. I’m not sure quite how he was involved.

(My comment: My Dad had strong views on the ruling party’s censorship laws – is reported to have said ”and that’s a load of bull****” at the end of a newscast whilst still on air & so they sent him packing!!!;).)

I did some research a while ago and came across a history of the Opera House in PE, which mentioned Dad a few times. Unfortunately, that website has been changed, but I think I may have made a copy at the time. I’ll see if I can find it. He did quite a few productions there – such as King Lear with Andre Huguenot (where I started and ended my very short career on the stage as a herald).

Dad also did several productions for PEMADS at the Little Theatre, and for the Gilbert and Sullivan Society in PE. I particularly recall Princess Ida, which was while we were living at 6 Cleeve Road. And of course, there was the Merry Widow, which I think was in the PE City Hall. He also did Merry Widow with Bertie Stern in Cape Town. Bertie owned the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg, where Dad did several productions – I recall Our Town in 1961.

The Maynardville website has an archive section, with the cast names for each production. He was in Much Ado about Nothing in 1962, Merchant of Venice in 1963, Hamlet in 1964, King Lear in 1966, and King Richard II in 1968.

He is also one of the founding sponsors (or something significant) of the Mannville Open Air Theatre in King Georges Park in Port Elizabeth. I recall that Mom and I went to the opening with Taubie Kushlick – were you also there? Can’t remember, isn’t that awful?”

David Jamieson CEng MICE BSc(CivEng) FAArb Senior Consultant, Binnington Copeland & Associates


Saturday Post, April 19, 1947.

David Jamieson (personal correspondence)

Fiona Jamieson (personal correspondence)

Tucker, 1997.

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