In the Spotlight: Nicholas Ellenbogen

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We’ve been asked to get a picture of Nicholas with his Fleur du Cap Lifetime Achievement Award, but he is a bit camera shy these days… So here is a picture of his certificate instead!

This award only begins to encapsulate the life that has been Nicholas Ellenbogen’s… And to truly tell the tale of Nicholas, one would need more than a book… But here’s a quick (ish) highlights reel.

Having begun his studies as an Economics major, Nicholas found the theatre after having to deal with too many overwhelming sums. He went to London to study acting, beginning a career that has spanned over 40 years.

In his acting career, Nicholas has acted in multiple productions of Shakespeare, has performed Brecht and worked with Harold Pinter, and has performed in numerous musicals. As a director,  he has directed grand-scale plays such as Okavango MacBeth and Richard III.

Nicholas also launched the Amstel Playwright of the Year Awards in 1978, which helped many new writers find their voices: One name that springs to mind from that project is Zakes Mda! He was also part of the Grahamstown Arts Festival committee, and helped to move the Festival from a Eurocentric event to one with a truly African focus.

Nicholas was also the Artistic Director of Drama for NAPAC from 1984, and was the founder of the Loft Theatre Company.

With his Theatre For Africa Company, which he founded with his wife Liz in 1989, Nicholas has toured Southern Africa training local actors and equipping people with the tools to express themselves, and also on how to conserve the environment. Many of Nicholas’ works have revolved around environmental education, a movement that only became popular almost a decade after Nicholas’ first efforts.

Theatre for Africa also performed for Queen Elizabeth II and her family at Balmoral Castle in Scotland in August 1992, where Nicholas was awarded a citation by the Duke of Edinburgh in recognition of his innovative approach to environmental education.

He has directed many smaller plays – many of them his own works – which leads to Nicholas the Playwright.

The man has written over 190 plays – some of which have been only performed once, but the archives are bursting with creativity! His work crosses from stories of Africa, to sport and to nature conservation, and some of his work – including his Horn of Sorrow – is taught in schools today.

He’s also become a Grahamstown Festival icon with his RAIDERS franchise, which has been running for 25 years and is a Festival favourite. This year, he returns to Grahamstown with RAIDERS: THE GREAT WAR.

He both created and directed the acclaimed 1991 feature film The Angel, The Bicycle and the Chinaman’s Finger, and recently had a supporting role in the family film Felix.

Nicholas has previously won a Fleur du Cap Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Sir Toby Belch in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Maynardville 2006/2007. He has performed in Nepal, Sweden, Edinburgh, to name but a very few!

He is currently starring alongside Sandile Kamle in SILLY MID ON at the Rosebank Theatre. This production must close on 29 March, so book tickets now!

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