John Wright (1906-1991) was a South African born puppeteer.
He was born in 1906 in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa. He initially tried his hand at farming before going to Cape Town to study art. In 1935 he worked his passage to England, where he became an assistant stage manager for the Ballet Rambert, and was inspired by a performance by the famous Podrecca's Piccoli marionette company.
His first performances were given in the old Cape Dutch farmhouse Libertas, outside Stellenbosch. With the success of these early shows the company were invited to perform in Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg.Thereafter they travelled overland through Rhodesia and the Congo eventually reaching England in 1946 where he set up a workshop and studio theatre in Hampstead.
In 1953, John and his company set off again and toured Europe and Southern Africa, repeating the tours in 1955 and 1957. only to return to England in 1959.
According to Percy Tucker (1997, p.27), he was married to Zoë Randall in this period, and she would direct some of his puppet shows.
In 1957, while on tour in South Africa for NTO with his marionette show, he met a Pretoria art student, Lyndie Parker*??, who had applied to join his company. She went on tour with them in Zimbabwe, then on to England to study at the Central School of Art, and so did he. Settling in London in 1959, they married and set up Little Angel Theatre in an old ruined temperance hall in Islington, London, which they bought with an inheritance from his aunt, and he devoted the last 30 years of his life to the theatre.
The company's work with marionettes became world-renowned and they have represented Britain at 25 international festivals.
He also did some film and TV work in England, including puppet making and puppetry for The Forbidden Street (1949, uncredited), The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), Billy Bean and His Funny Machine (BBC, 1954) and Supersonic Saucer (Gaumont, 1956).
He appeared as himself in the TV Series documentary on John Wright Puppets (Associated-Rediffusion Television, 1962) for the series "Here and Now".
He died in March 1991.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
He performed his first full length puppet play at Stellenbosch in 1941 and toured South Africa in 1943 and 1946, and again in 1955 and 1957 for the National Theatre Organisation (NTO) with his company, John Wright's Marionettes.
During the 1957 tour the company included Jane Tyson from England, Margaret Marshall, Timothy Heale as stage manager, Aiden Higgins, Jill Aanders, and Johan van Vreden who did most of the Afrikaans voices
John Wright was awarded the MBE by Her Majesty the Queen.
Lantern, 7(1), 1957.
Vertolkende Kunste, HSRC, 1972.
The family that pulls strings , The Guardian, 12 March 2011
"Little Angel Theatre, Dagmar Passage, N1: in honour of founder John Wright" Islington Newsletter
"Lyndie Wright, Puppeteer" in Spitalfields Life', July 30, 2014
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