Cockpit Players

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After the monumental success of Leonard Schach’s production of Bridget Boland’s play Cockpit in 1949, he formed a professional company, the Cockpit Players, who made Hofmeyr Theatre their home.



Joss Ackland played leads for Schach’s Cockpit Players before returning to England. On Leon Gluckman’s return from London in late 1957, he played Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger for the Cockpit Players. Leonard Schach’s Cockpit Players embarked on a lengthy Johannesburg run of four of their recent Cape Town successes in 1959. The first production was A Long Day's Journey into Night, which was staged at the Intimate Theatre, starring Leon Gluckman, John McKelvey, Joan Blake and Nigel Hawthorne in 1959. Next, Basil Warner’s Try for White opened at the Pretoria Opera House before moving to the Intimate Theatre for the remainder of their highly successful run. It starred Marjorie Gordon, Nigel Hawthorne, Zoë Randall, Michael Turner and Joyce Grant and Fiona Fraser (replacing Minna Millsten and Heather Lloyd-Jones respectively, from the Cape Town cast). Leon Gluckman and John McKelvey went straight into Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s prizewinning play Inherit the Wind, for which Leonard hired the Brooke Theatre. The fourth Cockpit production was Thornton Wilder’s lively period-New York comedy, The Matchmaker. This enduring show starring Marjorie Gordon as Dolly Levi, John McKelvey, Nigel Hawthorne, Michael McGovern, Robert Haber and Heather Lloyd-Jones, became the musical Hello, Dolly! Schach’s Players maintained a high standard at the Playhouse Theatre, Johannesburg in 1961 with Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker with Siegfried Mynhardt, Michael McGovern and Nigel Hawthorne, and Paddy Chayefsky’s prizewinning The Tenth Man, starring the same actors. Schach’s Players did William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker at the Playhouse Theatre, Johannesburg in 1961, starring Reinet Maasdorp and Fiona Fraser. In Cape Town, the Players staged Two for the Seesaw, starring Fiona Fraser and John Hayter in 1962. Leonard Schach directed Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, followed by Tennessee Williams’s The Night of the Iguana which was staged at the Playhouse Theatre by the Players in 1962. In his company of actors for these plays were Siegfried Mynhardt, Michael McGovern, Margaret Inglis, Marjorie Gordon, Diane Wilson and Kerry Jordan. This saw the end of Schach’s lease of the Playhouse Theatre in Johanneburg, and so the end of the Cockpit Players. **** (Tucker, 1997)

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