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Tuesday, April 5, 2011


David Louis Smith (February 9, 1932, to March 11, 2011) was a well-known figure on the theatre scene in Durban and in radio drama programmes on SABC English Service and Springbok Radio.

The following is a tribute from his daughter, Devra:

Born in Durban the first son of Joseph and Florence (nee Friend) Smith, he had a younger brother Peter and sister Rozanna. At Marist Brothers, he excelled at academics, was a prefect, had the honours blazer, played first team rugby for three years and had honours for boxing and athletics as well. He was described as an “honourable, pleasant and trustworthy young man”.

Since his retirement approximately seven years ago, when he and my Mum moved up the coast to live with my brother Dean at Salt Rock, he continued with his bridge playing. At his memorial, his bridge friends learnt with shock that not only was my Dad a wonderful singer but he was also an accomplished radio voice, actor and director. His bridge friends told me he was a gentleman and very humble as he never mentioned his past achievements.

My Dad lived in South Africa and Rhodesia and started off singing, gaining First Class Awards in the 50’s at the Bulawayo/Rhodesian Eisteddfod Society before going on to have a professional singing career as a baritone with the Salisbury Operatic & Choral Society. He began his theatre career in Salisbury when he was 18. He was in the Salisbury Reps and the Johannesburg Reps and appeared and toured with David Kossoff in the World of Sholom Aleichem.

He toured with the National Theatre Organisation in Come Back Little Sheba and had his own television show in Salisbury. He also had several successful festival productions in Zambia ... The Rainmaker, His Excellency, The Moon is Blue and Waltz of the Toreadors. He was also in New Moon, The Yeoman of the Guard, The Light of the Heart, Light up the Sky, Fifty Fifty, Kiss me Kate, Halfway to Heaven (where his brother Peter who was a professional musician, piano teacher and magician, played piano), Book of the Month and Johnny Belinda.

He worked a lot with my late father David Barnett, where he got to know my set designing/ building, costume designing, artist mum, Patsy, and married her six months after David Barnett died 1967 when I was three years old. He has two sons from his first marriage to Janet – Mark and Guy, then he adopted me, Martin and Dean. Then he and my Mum had my youngest brother Simon. Back then we did not know that I have an older sister Jane.

In Durban he produced Angels in Love and Duet for two Hands and performed in Murder without Crime, Murder Mistaken (three times), Breaking Point and Wanted One Body. He also performed in and directed many Candlelight Theatres. He appeared in In Camera at the Hermitage and Two and Two make Sex in the theatre in Aliwal Street.

He played Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (where he received a letter from Derek and Elsie Stubbs saying he was better than Topol in the London West End production), Professor Higgins in Pygmalion and Daddy Warbucks in Annie. Other productions included Babes in Arms, Frankenstein and Come Blow Your Horn. He directed the delightful musical Two by Two as well as the very successful Smike which involved the whole family and in which my younger brother Simon took the lead.

His radio career started in Salisbury and continued in Durban for Springbok radio and consisted of High Adventures, 9:30 Dossiers, Father Dear Father, The Navy Lark, The Romantic World of Barbara Cartland and Radio Theatre amongst many others. He also directed a few radio plays – one of them being The Master’s Touch which was written by my mum under her pseudonym, Anne Templer.

His last stint on stage was in The Company of Theatre Arts musical Don’t Worry, Be Happy at the Westville Civic Centre and he also had a small bit part in the movie The Baby Game.