Anthony Farmer

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(19**- 2006) Actor, stage and set designer, director and entrepreneur.


Early life

Born in England

Phase one of his South African career

His role with the Johannesburg Reps

First came to South Africa as part of the Ivor Novello company with Perchance to Dream (1947). In 1953 featured as stage manager, understudy and small-part player in Ivor Novello's King's Rhapsody with Zena Dare and others. Professionally employed as producer, director and stage manager with the Johannesburg REPS in 1951??*[/from January 1954, when they turned fully professional?* - Tucker, 1997]. In this period he produced, directed and designed sets and costumes worked on a whole range of plays for them. He secured all the rights for Agatha Christie’s plays and directed Witness for the Prosecution (1954) and Spider's Web (1955). Other plays in this period were Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (1955), My Three Angels (1955), William Inge’s Bus Stop (1955), Larger than Life (1955) Dead on Nine (1956) and The Remarkable Mr Pennypacker (1956).

In 1956 he returned to England for a while, after his father fell ill, cutting short his contract with the Johannesburg REPS.

Phase two of his South African career

As freelance director/designer

On his return he went into a flourishing new phase of his career as a freelance practitioner, working for the many companies, including the Johannesburg REPS, East Rand Theatre Club, Children's Theatre, Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society, Adam Leslie, ** Brian Brooke, **. With Ralph Trewhela and Adam Leslie, co-wrote and produced a series of revues (Sextet, 1957 and I Spy, 1959) and musicals (Ever Since Eve, 1958), and began to specialise in directing musicals. Among his major works as director (often as designer as well) in this second phase of his career have been Odd Man In, Peter Pan (Children's Theatre, 1957), Beauty and the Beast (Children's Theatre, 1961), The Dancing Years (JODS, 1961), Naughty Marietta (JODS,1961), The Most Happy Fella (JODS, 1962), Show Boat (JODS, 1963), Guys and Dolls (JODS, 1965), Around the World in 80 Days (JODS, 1966), Music Hall Revue (Adam Leslie Theatre, 1967), Eureka, (Johannesburg Civic Theatre, 1968), * , * .

As freelance designer

As designer only his work has included Janus (Brooke Theatre, 1958), The Women (Kushlick-Gluckman, 1961), Wait a Minim! (Leon Gluckman, 1962), * , and A Touch of Webber…A Taste of Rice (Dir. Richard Loring, 1992), African Footprint (Dir. Richard Loring, 1999), Izidumo (Muzworks SA, 19**) . As impressario he staged the Moulin Rouge show from Paris (ACT, 1964), and later became resident producer of revues and extravaganzas at Sun City , including **, Sexy (1995), **(??**), African Footprint (2000).

Involvement in the theatre industry

Over the years Farmer has been greatly involved with the industry, e.g. an active founding member of the South African Association of Theatre Managements for the Johannesburg REPS (from 1956) and the South African Institute of Theatre Technology (1969). Besides his theatrical work, he also he started and worked with the company International Advertising in 19**.


FARMER, Anthony. Theatre director and designer. He was part of the Ivor Novell company which did Perchance to Dream in 1947. Directed a production for the East Rand Theatre Club. Starred in Novello's King's Rhapsody in South Africa in 1953 together with Barry Sinclair, Olive Gilbert, Zena Dare and Muriel Barron. He was the stage manager, understudy and small-part player and during this production he was offered the position of resident producer and stage manager of the Reps Theatre from January 1954. He directed and designed the set for Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution. The set was a replica of the Old Bailey. Robert Griffiths and Sadie Festenstein played in this sell out show. He designed the sets for Dodie Smith’s romantic comedy I Capture the Castle which was staged at the YMCA in 1955. Jimmy Mentis produced and the cast included Shirley Firth. The Reps turned fully prosfessional in 1954 with Farmer in charge. He brought out English actor John Boulter for the British comedy My Three Angels which was staged at the Reps in 1955. He secured all the rights for Agatha Christie’s plays and directed The Spider's Web which starred Yolande Turnbill for the Reps in 1955. He staged Agatha Christie’s Bus Stop at the Reps in 1955, starring Brian Bell. He did a production of Larger than Life for the Reps in 1955. It was based on the novel Theatre by Somerset Maugham, and dramatised by the author with Guy Bolton, with a guest appearance by British star Jessie Matthews. He attended the first meeting of the South African Association of Theatre Managements for the Reps in 1956. He directed the thriller, Dead on Nine for the Reps in March 1956, and followed this with The Remarkable Mr Pennypacker. He then left for England after his father fell ill, cutting short his contract with the Reps, and went into a new phase of a career that flourished on his return. He devised and wrote the review Sextet, with music by Ralph Trewhela. Adam Leslie contributed material to the show. Starring Olive Wright, Olive King, Norma Vorster, Dennis Hale, Jimmy Mentis and Tommy Tucker in 1957. He directed and also designed the set for Children's Theatre Christmas show of 1957, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, which was stage at the Reps and starred the boyish Evadne Kohler-Baker in the title role. He designed the sets for Janus, a comedy, at the Brooke Theatre in 1958. Brian Brooke directed this play which starred Gordon Mulholland and Margaret Inglis. He wrote the musical Ever Since Eve which received rave reviews when it was staged at the YMCA in 1958. This Anthony Farmer Productions’ offering starred Olive Wright, Maureen Adair, John Boulter, and newcomer Patrick ‘Paddy’ O’Byrne. He joined forces with Adam Leslie and composer Ralph Trewhela to create the satirical revue I Spy in 1959. He was designer for Kushlick-Gluckman’s revival of Clare Boothe’s The Women at the Intimate Theatre with Shirley Firth, Jenny Gratus, Valerie Miller and Diane Wilson in the lead roles in 1961. He directed Ivor Novello’s The Dancing Years and Naughty Marietta for the JODS in 1961. He did Beauty and the Beast, Children's Theatre’s only production for 1961. He designed the set for Leon Gluckman’s revue, Wait a Minim! at the Intimate Theatre in 1962 with musicians Andrew and Paul Tracey, Kendrew Lascelles and Jeremy Taylor. They toured the country for eleven months, visiting Durban’s Alhambra Theatre, Rhodesia, Cape Town, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth before returning to Johannesburg to play at the Alexander Theatre and the Colony in Hyde Park Hotel. He directed and designed décor and costumes for Frank Loesser’s Broadway musical The Most Happy Fella which was staged at the Civic Theatre by the JODS in 1962. It starred Edwin Steffe.

He directed and did the designed for the JODS production of the musical Show Boat, with Inia te Wiata, Marie van Zyl, Olive King, Ronnie Shelton, Shirley Arden and the Capedium Choir at the Civic Theatre in 1963. It played at the Civic Theatre again in 1964, and JODS took it to African Theatre’s Cape Town venue, the Alhambra, where the Eoan Group replaced the Capedium Choir. He started the company International Advertising. He staged the Moulin Rouge show from Paris for ACT at the Empire Theatre in 1964, and designed the sets. He directed and did the design for Frank Loesser’s musical Guys and Dolls which JODS staged at the Civic in 1965. It was based on the writings of Damon Runyon and starred Diane Todd, Michael McGovern, Charles Stodel, Patricia Langford and Bradley Harris. It returned for another sell out season the following year. Anthony Farmer staged Around the World in 80 Days for JODS at the Civic Theatre in 1966. Wendy de la Harpe did the choreography, music was conducted by Bob Adams with Aubrey Louw assisting this show starring John Boulter and English actor Jack Tripp. He directed and designed Music Hall Revue, which was the opening show at The Adam Leslie Theatre in August 1967. It starred Adam Leslie and Joan Blake. He directed Percy Baneshik’s Eureka, with score by Bertha Egnos, which opened at the Civic Theatre in March 1967. It starred Lawrence Folley and Pat Lancaster. He designed the set for Taubie Kushlick’s production of Cabaret at the Brooke in 1969. Bonnie Walker did choreography and it starred Amanda Barrie.

He did the set design for the Academy’s West Side Story at the Alexander Theatre in 1970. It starred Michael Harrison, Patricia Arnell, Lynton Burnes and Richard Loring, Delia Sainsbury and Keith Galloway while Kip Andrews directed and choreographed and Paul Jannsen was the stage director. It eventually moved to the Empire Theatre and then to Cape Town. He did set design for the JODS production of Applause, starring Janis Paige and Gay Lambert, at the Civic Theatre in 1971. Otto Pirchner directed and choreography was taken over from Geoffrey Sutherland by Wendy de la Harpe. At this stage he was president of JODS, and this proved to be their last production at the Civic. He directed and did set design for Kismet, the first PACT musical to be staged. Neels Hansen did costumes and Lawrence Folley, Gé Korsten, Barbara Veenemans, Kerry Jordan and Iris Chapple starred in this musical at the Civic Theatre in late 1973. He did the designs for Trevor Griffiths’s Comedians, directed by Leonard Schach and starring Bill Brewer, Michael Howard, Danny Keogh, Richard Cox, Ian Hamilton, Robert Whitehead and Anthony James at The Market in December 1976. He directed A Night to Remember which was staged as the opening production of the Alhambra Theatre, now owned by JODS, on 17 April 1977. He did the designs for The Company’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular, co-directed by John Hussey and Mannie Manim, with Diane Appleby, Graham Armitage, Naomi Buch, Wilson Dunster, Kerry Jordan and Gay Lambert at the Market Theatre in November 1977. He directed the JODS production of New Faces of 1978 with choreography by Wendy de la Harpe at the Alhambra Theatre in 1978.

He designed the theatre at Sol Kerzner’s Sun City. He also designed and directed its opening production with choreography by Nick Navarro, costume design by Neels Hansen and Adolpho Waitzman leading the musical team. It opened on the 15 December 1979. He devised and directed an opening production for the Pretoria State Theatre called Applause in 1981. Together with Nick Navarro and Adolpho Waitzman he created the extravaganza called Stars at the Sun City Theatre in 1984. He designed an intimate dinner theatre in the place of the old Siegfried Mynhardt Theatre which was ravaged by fire circa 1984. The opening production was Oh! La! La! conceived and directed by Siegfried Mynhardt. He directed Showboat starring Bess Arlene, Mayo Miza with Ed Barrett and Pieter Niemann alternating the role of Gaylord Ravenals. It was staged by PACT at the Pretoria State Theatre in December 1984. (See Du Toit, 1988; Tucker, 1997) [TH, JH, GH, SH]

FARMER, Anthony, (prod), Showboat, (Kern & Hammerstein), PACT, 1985, Chris van den Berg, (costume designs), Jo-Ann Pezarro, William C. Witter, Mara Louw, Paddy Canavan, Susan Braatvedt, Mayo Miza, Bill Smale, Ed Barrett, Bess Arlene, Leo Quayle (orchestra) David Moore (Choreography) Nic Michaletos (lighting).[[

Anthony Farmer Productions

Anthony Farmer’s production house which staged his musical Ever Since Eve at the YMCA in 1958. It starred Olive Wright, Maureen Adair, John Boulter, and newcomer Patrick ‘Paddy’ O’Byrne. *** (Tucker, 1997)


Obituary: Beeld 26 May 2006.

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