South African Actor Patrick Mynhardt Dies, Aged 75Date: 29 October 2007
South African actor and playwright Patrick Mynhardt died of natural causes in London on Thursday 25 October, where a two-week run of his biographical play, Boy from Bethulie, was taking place at the Jermyn Street Theatre. He was 75.
Mynhardt had performed three of his one-man shows since the season opened on 22 October, and even spent time on stage after his final performance to have photographs taken and sign autographs. Penny Horner, general manager of Jermyn Street Theatre, said, “We are completely and utterly gutted. There was certainly nothing to indicate he was ill.”
Boy from Bethulie was scheduled to run until 2 November, but the theatre will now remain dark until the next scheduled production, Curtain Up, Lights Up, Cock Up, which begins on 5 November. Horner said the theatre would be “gentle” when it informed patrons who had booked for his show of what had happened.
Born in Bethulie of an Afrikaans father and an Irish mother, Mynhardt was educated at Bethulie School and De La Salle College in East London. After joining South Africa’s National Theatre Organisation in 1953, as an actor he toured the country for a year and a half, appearing in English and Afrikaans plays, but soon left for the UK to train at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He went on to work at repertory companies throughout England, in West End plays, at the Edinburgh Fringe and in BBC plays and serials.
He worked with, among others, Peter Sellers, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, Richard Harris, Peter O‘Toole, Michael Caine and Judi Dench, returning to South Africa at the end of 1960, where he became well known for his one-man shows A Sip of Jerepigo, More Jerepigo, Just Jerepigo and Another Sip of Jerepigo. “If I can’t be the world’s greatest actor, Laurence Olivier, in London,” he once said, “then I would rather be Patrick Mynhardt in South Africa.”
Boy from Bethulie opened in South Africa in 1982, and was followed by The Best of Bosman and Bethulie in 1990, and which he performed in London, Brussels, New York, Washington, San Francisco and Israel.
Producer Colin Law, who was in London with Mymhardt, said: “This is a very sad end to a 30-year working relationship. It was a great privilege to work with Patrick. He died doing what he loved most – performing.”
Daphne Kuhn, owner and producer of the Liberty Theatre on the Square in Johannesburg where Mynhardt often performed, said he will be remembered “with love and with laughter”, adding, "he was a master storyteller, he captured the essence of South African life even during apartheid. His stories somehow captured the imaginations of everybody across the cultural divide. He will be sorely missed.”
Mynhardt is survived by his son, three grandchildren and a brother and sister. Funeral arrangements will be posted on www.patrickmynhardt.com
- by Tom Atkins & Roger Foss