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Thursday, April 7, 2011


(Gillian Lomberg, courtesy of Paddy Berry)

Members of Durban’s radio drama and theatre community are united in their sorrow at the passing of one of its finest, Gillian Lomberg, who passed away on April 4. She had been ill for a number of years and it is one consolation that she is now free of pain and suffering.

However, she bore her illness with the pragmatic approach in which she lived her life. In an email chat with artSMart editor in August last year (2010) she wrote: “My illness progresses as you can imagine and I am pretty well bed-bound these days. However, I have managed to achieve one or two things. I directed a production of Rose by Martin Sherman, for which we received the best actress award. I finished my play The Fractal Moment, now to find someone to produce it!”

Actor Frank Graham worked with Gillian for many years. This is his tribute:

Friends and Neighbours ran for some 10 years altogether, though our second run featured some different actors as David Horner had died (replaced by Mike Westcott) and Jim Williams was replaced by Tommy Read - but for the duration, Gillian Lomberg played Phyllis Loader, a rather dim lady who had surprising flashes of intelligence, rather like Rose in The Golden Girls.

Although Gill had a beautifully rich, rather deep voice (with one of the most delicious laughs I've ever heard), our original producer, Tom Meehan, wanted her to play Phyllis with a high-pitched, soppy whine based on Eth in the Glums from Take It From Here. My regular character was the androgynous Percy Snodgrass who had the hots for her (a source of continual irritation for Phyllis' husband, Gerald) and their meeting in every episode was heralded by Percy's lecherous: "Hallo, Phylli-i-i-i-is!" met with her coy, simpering: "Hallo, Percy!" which sometimes went on four or five times. The audiences always loved that.

Gillian was lovely to work with; a thorough professional with a great sense of humour. She and her husband left our shores decades ago but I have never forgotten her. It was most distressing, years ago, to hear of her gradual slide into motor neurone disease. Her suffering was long and has to have been truly horrible. God bless you, Gilly. Rest in peace.”