Rex Garner

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Rex Garner (1921-2015) [1] was a British-born actor and director.


He joined the Academy Theatre in 1968 and he settled in Johannesburg in 1974. He worked with Pieter Toerien as an actor and stage director from 1979 to 1999. He returned to Britain in the early 2000's, where he died at the age of 94 on 17 May 2015.

Rex first came to South Africa in 1968 to direct and play in Uproar in the House. He then commuted between SA and the UK for some years. He eventually moved to South Africa permanently, married Tammy Bonell, and they have three daughters. By 1985 he has appeared in and/or directed some 30 plays.




His first play in the West End was Dr Angelus, then followed The Square Ring, The Trial of Mr Pickwick, Cactus Flower and the musical Instant Marriage. He has appeared in well over 200 TV shows of all kinds including Shadow Squad and My Wife and I. Rex has also appeared in Australia and Germany as well as on Broadway and has spent some time filming in Rome. He also directed Chase Me Comrade in Holland.

Later became a partner in the Pieter Toerien Company.

He returned to England in 2002/3?*, but still came to South Africa on occasion for a performance.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Directed and acted in numerous farces for Toerien over the years.

As actor

He starred in Uproar in the House, in July 1967, Not Now, Darling, in 1967, Birds of Paradise (1974), Why Not Stay for Breakfast? (1976), Say Something, Fringe Benefits (1977), Middle Age Spread (October 1980), Spider's Web (1981), Key for Two (1982), Mass Appeal (1983), Run for Your Wife (1984), One for the Pot (1985), (1986).

In 1987 he starred in Canadian playwright Bernard Slade's Tribute for Pieter Toerien. Other productions include Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1989), Lend Me a Tenor (1990), Never the Sinner (1991).

As director

He directed Uproar in the House (1968), Chase Me Comrade and The Man Most Likely To (1969), Harvey (1969), Stand By Your Bedouin (1970), The Lionel Touch, (1971), The Brass Hat (1972), Boeing-Boeing (1972) Till Bed Do Us Part (1973),

He also directed a musical version of Not Now Darling called Once More, Darling (1977). He presented There Goes the Bride and The Loudest Tears in Town at the Academy in 1978.

He directed himself, Melody O’Brian and George Korelin in What More Could She Want at the Alexander Theatre, before taking it to the Academy in 1979. He directed the Academy Productions production of Ernest Thomson’s On Golden Pond (1979), Doctor on the Boil (1979), Who Goes Bare, (1982). He directed Clarence Darrow starring Richard Haines at the Leonard Rayne in January 1984. It returned twice and played at the Grahamstown Festival.

Noises Off (1983), Special Occasions (1984)

He directed himself, Fiona Ramsay, Jonathan Rands and Neville Thomas in In praise of Rattigan in 1984.

In 1985 he directed Black Coffee, Benefactors, The Runner Stumbles, One For The Pot (in which he also starred), Kean, Equus, Stepping Out, The Marriage Go Round and Murder at the Vicarage, all for Pieter Toerien.

The Foreigner and Tobie Cronjé in Funny Peculiar in 1986, Wife Begins at Forty (1987), Not Now, Darling (1987), Cahoots (1988), Legends (1988), The Maintenance Man (1990), Grin and Bare It (1990), Birds of Paradise (1992),  Don’t Dress for Dinner (1993). Together with Tammy Garner he directed James Sherman’s Beau Jest in 1993. 

He directed and starred in Noises Off (1983), Two Into One (1986), Murder on the Nile (1989), Move Over Mrs Markham (1990), Out of Order (1992), The Earl and the Pussycat(1992), It Runs in the Family (1993), Run For Your Wife, In Praise of Rattigan, Absurd Person Singular (1998), 'Visiting Mr Green (1999).

Other productions include Move Over Mrs Markham, The Brass Hat, Harvey, Chase Me Comrade. Middle Age Spread, Spider's Web, Cheaters, Moving, Who Goes Bare, Run For Your Wife (the last eight for Pieter Toerien).

Film and television

Television work in South Africa includes The Settlers and as the subject of Profile. Moving was filmed for the small screen, and he has done a series of 13 panel games entitled Take My Word, and The First Day of Christmas in which he played Santa Claus. and played the name role in Moliere's The Miser for the SABC and for which he received an Artes Award nomination as Best Actor.


Noises off, (director) Mass Appeal (best actor) (1983 – Fleur du Cap award for both).

directed Clarence Darrow which won quarterly Vita Award for Best Production and for which Rex won Dalro's Breytenbach Epathlon Best Director Award;

In 1984 he directed Clarence Darrow which won quarterly Vita Award for Best Production and for which Rex won Dalro's Breytenbach Epathlon Best Director Award;

Vita Award Sept 1993 nomination for The Earl and the Pussycat (Tonight/Igi Life Vita award for comedy);

Also played more serious roles, winning a Fleur du Cap Theatre Award, Best Actor as "Father Tim" in Mass Appeal in 1983 and as "Dad" in Tim Plewman's Breakfast with Dad (2004).

In 1999 he received the Fleur du Cap Lifetime Award for his contribution to the industry.

Pieter Toerien opened a new auditorium at the Alhambra Theatre in 1983 called the Leonard Rayne Theatre which was renamed the Rex Garner in 1994.


SACD 1973.

Tucker, 1997.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

Programme of the 1985 run of Two Into One by Ray Cooney.

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