Monday, May 18, 2015

GOING UP. Veteran British South African actor, director and stage legend Rex Garner has died.

The veteran British born film, stage and TV actor and director Rex Garner who came to South Africa in 1968 to carve out a new chapter in South Africa's growing stage and entertainment sphere, died Sunday night.

"Rest in peace, Rex Garner," wrote actress Judy Ditchfield, a former actress in the SABC3 soap Isidingo on Monday on social media.

"Thank you for starting me on my journey in comedy. For the many lessons I learnt from you in the many productions I did with you, thank you. Say hi to Gordie for us. Rest in peace Rex. You were the King of Comedy in South Africa."

Comedian, producer and director Tim Plewman said "my great friend and mentor, Rex Garner passed away last night. I am broken with sadness. May be find his way".

South African television viewers will mainly remember Rex Garner for his TV role as the lawyer Reginald Cluver in the Penguin Films comedy Going Up opposite Joe Mafela and June van Merch which just started again last week with its umpteenth rebroadcast on the SABC's just started rerun channel SABC Encore (DStv 156) on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

It just the tip of the iceberg however for a supremely prolific and long career in the performance arts for Rex Garner, who appeared in and directed a vast number of plays over several decades in South Africa - which included several farces especially with great friend and fellow thesp Gordon Mulholland.

Rex Garner made over 200 TV appearances in various TV shows in the United Kingdom, and added appearances in several more in South African television and played in and directed more than 150 plays in South Africa by 2005.

On South African television Rex Garner played the lead role in Molière's The Miser for which he received the Tonight Best Actor Award and was nominated for an Artes Best Actor Award. He was also nominated for a Best Actor Award in The Settlers after which 4 seasons of Going Up followed.

Rex Garner first came to South Africa in the late 60's after first visiting in 1968 to direct and star in Uproar in the House.

He then commuted between South Africa and the United Kingdom for some time after which he moved here permanently in 1974 as artistic director for the Academy Theatre until it closed in 1979.

He joined Pieter Toerien in several stage productions, winning several awards in South Africa for serious to comedic roles, as well as directing. In 1983 for instance he won two Fleur du Cap Awards - Best Director for Noises Off and Best Actor for Mass Appeal which made him the first person to receive both awards in the same year.

Rightly described as "a legend in his own lifetime" Rex Garner's career saw him become one of South Africa's most respected and renowned directors of theatre.