Berkoff was born in London and studied drama and mime in London and Paris.
In 1968 he formed the London Theatre Group that departed from mainstream theatre and started to evolve an innovative, more integrated theatrical language. Berkoff’s encounter with the mime artist Jacques le Coq in Paris was paramount to his career.
Other than his stage works, Berkoff is also a well-known face on movie and television screens. His film credits include A Clockwork Orange, Octopussy, Beverly Hills Cop, The Krays, The Passenger and Rambo. He has appeared in many television series including Star Trek, and La Femme Nikita.
Contribution to South African theatre
Besides the enormous influence of his plays, particularly through the productions at UCT and the Baxter Theatre by Mavis Taylor, Fred Abrahamse and others, he also visited South Africa to direct and to perform his one man play. Among his plays performed in the country have been: East, West, Decadence, Greek, The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (2005)
Berkoff’s plays were first performed in Cape Town in the late seventies, and had local audiences responding with fervour.
He came to South Africa to star in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Kafka’s Metamorphosis together with Henry Goodman, Fiona Ramsay and Ian Roberts. It was directed by Richard E. Grant and Michael O’Brien and staged at the Space Theatre (where it broke all attendance records) and the Market Theatre in 1980.
Decadence ran for 13 weeks at the Space Theatre in the early eighties and sold out at the Baxter’s Concert Hall before it was even transferred to the bigger venue. Graham Wright brought the Baxter Theatre production of his Decadence starring Bo Petersen and John Maytham (replacing Fiona Ramsay and Henry Goodman who had played the roles in Cape Town) with direction by Ron Smerczak to the Wits Theatre in 1984 after it ran at the Alhambra Theatre in Durban. It has returned to local stages twice since the first production (which was directed by Fred Abrahamse and starred Fiona Ramsey and Henry Goodman).
Greek, Kvetch, Agamemnon, West and East were performed at the Baxter Theatre over the years to captivated audiences. His Greek, directed by Mavis Taylor, was first staged at the Baxter Theatre and then at Upstairs at the Market in 1986. From My Point of View 1989 CAPAB.
The Star, 25 June 1997.
Die Burger 21 November 2002.
Go to the ESAT Bibliography
Return to ESAT Personalities B
Return to South African Theatre Personalities
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page