Angelique Rockas (1951-) is a stage and film actress, practitioner and producer.
Baptised Angeliki Rockas, she was born and raised in Boksburg, South Africa, to immigrant Greek parents, and spent two years of her childhood in Peloponnese, Greece, and was taught by her family to honor her cultural heritage and learn the Greek language.
She had her early education at St Dominic's Catholic School for Girls in Boksburg, Transvaal, where the activist and later ANC cabinet minister, Barbara Hogan was one of her contemporaries. Her own activist beliefs began at school and were originally inspired by the prejudice shown her brother, who had been born malformed, while her participation in school plays and local eistedfords and so on sparked an early interest in the theatre. She is multi-lingual, speaking English, Greek, Afrikaans, French, and what she refers to as pidgin Italian.
She and Hogan would get to know each other better when they both went on to study at the University of the Witwatersrand, where Angelique did a BA, beginning with a focus on politics. During this time she was notably influenced by the human rights lawyer George Bizos, friend and attorney of Nelson Mandela and one of the framers of the constitution of the new South Africa.
However, she later adapted her course to concentrate on English literature and Philosophy and after graduating with her BA degree, Angelique's parents sent her on a tour of Europe's cultural capitals. On her return she continued her studies there with an Honours degree in English Literature, while doing drama in an extra curricular course. It was while studying English Literature that she discovered Jacobean tragedies and the works of contemporary writers like Samuel Beckett, an exposure which increased her hunger to perform, which led her to the University of Cape Town, where she completed a Performers Diploma at the University of Cape Town Drama Department , under the direction of Robert Mohr, and started an MA thesis on Restoration comedy (though this was never finished). Among her contemporaries there were the South African actress and playwright Reza de Wet and the actor Vincent Ebrahim.
On completion of the course however, she soon realised that there was no place for her given her belief in a just non-racial society and the equality for women. So, after a brief stint as a professional actress in Cape Town, she moved to London with a letter of introduction from CAPAB actor Cobus Rossouw. Her first audition in the UK was with the RSC, but her initial work there was with a Greek Cypriot theatre company called Theatro Technis in North London, before branching out on her own as producer and actress.
She has lived there since, though she works in the UK, Greece, has a Paris and USA agent, and also has a base in Eastern Europe, where there is a burgeoning film renaissance. In fact, though she has stated that her identity is "South African born" and that this is inextricably linked to part of her identity, she also calls Greece her real home, a place she goes to not to visit, but to live as a Greek and participate in the common life. It is the land where she wants to be buried.
Always a socio-political activist and passionate about Greece, she has over the years created two groups on LinkedIn: Global Greek Women, to promote Greece's interests and another called Women International - a discussion forum on peace, justice, education and culture.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
Besides appearances in school plays, activist performances at Wits, and some student work at UCT, her brief South African professional career included narrating a passage in Middle English from the Morte D'Athur on the SABC in Cape Town (her first job). Two key student productions done in the Little Theatre, Cape Town were Die Effek van Gammastrale op Goudgeel Afrikaners (Zindel) and Offending the Audience (Handke), both directed by Robert Mohr. Die Effek van Gammastrale op Goudgeel Afrikaners, an Afrikaans version of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-moon Marigolds, was performed in April 1973, with Angelique and Reza de Wet sharing the role of "Nenna" and performing on alternate nights - De Wet in Afrikaans, Rockas in English.
Later career in theatre, film and TV
As noted above, her London career began with performances for Theatro Technis, before she took her first tentative efforts in creating her own kind of new theatre company by mounting John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, which had inspired her during her Honours studies in South Africa.
Thus it came about that Angelique founded the Internationalist Theatre (initially known as New Theatre, then the New Internationalist Theatre) in London in September 1980, with Athol Fugard as one of its patrons. It aimed at pursuing an internationalist approach in its choice of plays, with Rockas pioneering a multi-racial policy in the UK, seeking an even mix of performers drawn from different cultural groups. This was based on her expressed belief that: "A great play that deals with the perennial concerns of people can come from anywhere, can be spoken with any accent, and can be played by actors of any colour".
In November 1980, Rockas produced and financed a performance of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore by John Ford, performing the lead part of "Annabella" herself. She would thereafter perform in several productions by Internationalist Theatre in London from 1981 to 1985, included among them such classic roles as "Carmen" in The Balcony (Genet), "Yvette" in Brecht`s Mother Courage and Her Children and "Tatiana" in Gorky`s Enemies, the lead in Euripides's Medea (1982), "Miriam" in the London premiere of Tennessee Williams`s In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel and "Julie" in Strindberg`s Miss Julie (1984).
In 1986 the highly respected Internationalist Theatre received charity status in England and continued its work into the 1990s.
Angelique has since worked internationally on stage, film and TV (e.g. Emmones Idees, the 1989 Greek language TV Series) and has own film company called Contemtptus Mundi Films, with which she develops film projects.
For more detailed information on her impressive international career, see the websites listed under Sources below.
Personal correspondence from Sonia Hopkins (9-10 February, 2019)
Personal correspondence with Angelique Rockas(17 February, 2019)
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