South Africa’s entertainment world has had to bear the burden of its loss of Dawn Lindberg, and this news came within days of two other sad departures; those of Malcolm Terrey and Ian Yule.
Yule and Terrey: Two Different Peas from the Same Island Pod
Both came to South Africa as adults, and while Yule’s domain was movies, Terrey’s was theatre. Whilst they became embedded in our local culture, they never lost that sense of who they were, and, in so doing, flavoured the local arts community with their particularly British sensibility.
Of course, you couldn’t find two more different people. Let’s frame it this way: if you had to make a movie about them, you’d get Oliver Reed to play Yule, and Noel Coward to play Terrey.
Hang out with Yule, and you’d want to throw back a few pints, and wrestle a gorilla. Spend some time with Terrey, and you’d want to share some bitchy remarks about someone in “the biz”. Both of them were brazenly, fiercely who they had to be.
These two exceptional men brought a bit of England – and heaps of colour – to South Africa’s entertainment scene.
The Tough Guy
Ian Yule was a professional soldier for the greater part of his adult life. We’re talking the British Army’s Royal Artillery, Parachute Regiment and Special Air Service; not your kids’ stuff. He served in such conflicts as the Korean War, the Battle of Inchon and Battle of Chosin Reservoir. This unstoppable man of action was also a mercenary, under the leadership of the legendary anti-communist mercenary “Mad Mike” Hoare (who incidentally, died aged 100 in Durban, earlier this year).
Ian worked (uncredited) as a stunt man on two enormous movie classics, ‘Ben-Hur’ (1959) and ‘The Longest Day’ (1962). His yearning for exotic adventure would bring him to Africa, where he would serve in the Rhodesian Security Forces and South African Defence Force. Again, the film bug bit, and he became a regular in local movies from the mid ’60s, appearing alongside South African giants such as Al Debbo, Joe Stewardson, Tony Jay, Adrian Steed and Brian O’Shaughnessy.
It was the ‘70s, however, that would establish the actor in the South African consciousness, and cement his rugged persona. He would probably have asserted that he was receiving salary cheques simply for being himself… The fact that he knew his way around a gun made him useful on the set of war movies, as he could also act as firearms consultant/instructor.
The movies for which he is most remembered are ‘The Diamond Mercenaries’ (1976), ‘Golden Rendezvous’ (1977), ‘Zulu Dawn” (1979), ‘Shamwari’ (1982), and The Wild Geese (1978); the latter being inspired by Mike Hoare’s military expedition into the Congo.
In his later years, Ian’s accumulation of war wounds got the better of him, and he became increasingly unable to care for himself. In 2015, the South African Legion returned him to his native United Kingdom; a country that treats its veterans and aged with a great deal more compassion than he’d received in his adoptive country.
He was cared for during his final years by the Honourable Artillery Company, SSAFA, and other council and volunteer bodies in Chichester, where he would pass away on December 3rd. In a cinematic age of the sensitive, sprouts-nibbling New Age Male, Yule’s robust Alpha Male will be sorely missed.
The Funny Guy
As a kid growing up in Bournemouth, all that Malcolm Terrey ever wanted to do was perform – and to that dream he was entirely true. He’d already been acting for some time when, in 1982, a British friend with South African ties informed him about an acting opportunity in South Africa. The production had been looking for a lead with a good Scottish accent, and Malcolm (both of whose parents were Scots) could do that with his eyes closed.
Not only did he land the role, but he fell in love with the country – and a particular South African, to boot – and promptly put down roots. Since then, he’d only ever returned to the UK once, for his niece’s wedding.
Malcolm was a master of comedy, and for four decades he made local theatre audiences laugh like drains – at the expense of a regular income. But such is the lot of the artist.
Terrey was notorious amongst his peers for being the master of the “corpse” – the wicked art of making actors lose their character and cool on stage, and dissolve in a heap of hilarity. He would reserve the technique for when something had gone wrong with the show, or for closing night. Once his colleagues were felled by the corpse, it was Malcolm’s cue for a string of wicked ad-libs that would have the audience hooting out loud with laughter.
I’ll never forget one such occasion, in which an actor grabbed a phone of the old rotary dial type, to answer an urgently awaited call. The thing promptly fell apart, and the pieces fell to the floor, like elements of a poorly assembled Chinese puzzle. The actors froze: how on earth does one answer that call? Terrey’s machine-gun fire of ad-libs began, and it must’ve been at least 10 minutes before his on-stage colleagues were able to pick up the pieces (of the phone and their performance), and continue with the play.
Apart from the roles that he took in numerous Pieter Toerien productions over the years, Terrey was particularly beloved for the satirical franchise, The Jo’Burg Follies, which was conceived by his partner in comedic crime, the musician-performer Kevin Feather, and for which Terrey ‘repurposed’ popular songs with his own biting lyrics.
Like his counterpart across the seas, the resolutely camp Kenneth Williams, Terrey could be as acerbic off-stage as on, but this often concealed a very kind and gentle soul, who mentored many a young thesp over the years. He was even known amongst his younger colleagues as “Mother”. Johannesburg is sadder, greyer, and a damn sight less funny, in his absence.
A Tragic Coda
Yule was almost completely blind and deaf at the time of his passing, in addition to being debilitated by severe arthritis. Terrey had suffered from diabetes for years. Both died alone and in penury; a terrible indictment of the fickle, throwaway culture of a country that had been so enriched by their contributions.