Theatre icon Patrick Mynhardt dies

South African theatre icon Patrick Mynhardt, famous for his one-man show Boy from Bethulie and for portraying the Herman Charles Bosman character Oom Schalk Lourens on stage, has died at the age of 75, it was announced on Thursday.

Mynhardt passed away of natural causes in London on Thursday morning, Buz Publicity said in a statement. He was there to perform the biographical Boy from Bethulie at the Jermyn Street Theatre in the West End.

He was found dead by an old friend who had been putting him up in London.

“We are completely and utterly gutted. Absolutely horrified,” said theatre general manager and trustee Penny Horner.
“There was certainly nothing to indicate he was ill.”

Mynhardt had performed three of his one-man shows of two hours each since the first week of his run opened on October 22.

Producer Colin Law, who was in London with Mynhardt, 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.”

Master storyteller

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”.

“He was a master storyteller,” she said. “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.”

She added that Mynhardt—“a gentleman to his fingertips”—was loved and respected as a very fine, proud and passionate actor.

Stephen Gray, academic, author and literary critic, said: “Patrick Mynhardt will be remembered very positively. He was a brave man to do one one-man show and devote the rest of his life to it.”

He added: “It was thanks to his initiative that he caused a total turnaround in our literature by rescuing Herman Charles Bosman from blackout and turning his reputation around to being the most noted South African writer in the 20th century.”

Mynhardt’s daughter-in-law, Marina Mynhardt, told the Mail & Guardian Online that he was a “raving raconteur”. She could not confirm any funeral details as arrangements still had to be made to transport Mynhardt’s body from the United Kingdom.

Life in entertainment

Born in Bethulie in the Free State on June 12 1932, Mynhardt was a star of the stage, film, television and radio for more than 50 years in South Africa and overseas. He appeared in more than 150 stage productions (in South Africa and the United Kingdom), 100 local and international films and about 100 television plays and serials, some local and some abroad.

On South African television he starred in the drama series Vyfster and the sitcom Suburban Bliss, though many South Africans knew him as the story-telling Oom Schalk Lourens in theatre shows such as A Sip of Jerepigo, More Jerepigo, Just Jerepigo, Cold Stone Jug and Another Sip of Jerepigo.

After studying at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, he joined the National Theatre Organisation in 1953 as an actor and started touring the country, according to his website, PatrickMynhardt.com. In 1954, he left for London where he trained at the Central School of Drama.

Performing on stage and for the BBC in Britain, he worked with such luminaries as Peter Sellers, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, Michael Caine and Judi Dench. At the end of 1960 he returned to South Africa.

In a 2002 interview with SouthAfrica.info he said he had no plans to retire. “Retire? What would I do? I can do nothing but talk shit,” he said.

He added: “I just wanted to be a wonderful actor. Forget about regrets. If you’ve achieved your great desire in life, what else matters?”

Mynhardt is survived by his son, Johann, two grandchildren, and his brother and his sister.

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