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Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The following tribute is from Ray's long-time close friend Barry Meehan

It is with great sadness that we report the untimely death of Durban theatre legend, Ray Johnson, at the age of 65, from a massive heart attack.

Ray’s career in theatre began while he was still in school, as lighting technician at what was then the Lyric Theatre in Umbilo Road. He worked under many of the senior theatre directors of the time creating local productions, as well as on many of the shows that came to the Lyric as part of the South African circuit, learning stagecraft from the best in the business.

NAPAC (now The Playhouse Company) was also a great learning ground for Ray, and he trod the boards in many local productions. Going through Ray’s scrapbooks from that golden era of South African theatre is a genuine look back in time. Just a few of the names Ray lit up or shared a stage with are David Barnett, Derek Roy, Lucille Henderson, Pat Rosevear Lowe, Virginia Lee, Des Morley, Cecil Hayter, David Horner, Kenneth Baker, Zara Kwitz, Marcelle Mitchell, Norman Coombes, Diane Todd, Pip Freedman, Peter Merrill, Keith Blundell, Gé Korsten, Oystein Liltved, Leonore Veenemans, David Matheson, Nellie du Toit, Frank Shelley, Michael Atkinson, Daniel Thorndike, Clive Scott, Caroline Smart, David Smith, Vanda Arletti, Dickie Loader, Peter Prowse ..... and the list goes on and on!

Ray’s passion for theatre was constant, and he somehow found the time - when involved in a career in the advertising industry, and later in direct marketing - to stage, direct and produce many notable successes on school and amateur stages, amongst them Oliver, Annie Get Your Gun, Irma La Douce, Annie, They Wrote the Songs and several more. Always believing that the future of South African theatre lay in the youth getting a good grounding in the arts, Ray devised and directed several productions for youth members of the Westville Theatre Club, such as From Joseph to the Phantom featuring the music of Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Throughout his life, Ray and his wife Jeanine were passionate theatre-goers, eagerly attending everything there was to see on local, national and even international stages. They travelled extensively around the world, and spent a good part of this travel time in theatres in various cities throughout Europe and the United States.

Ray is survived by his devoted wife of over 40 years, Jeanine, and their children Darron (married to Shaileen) and Kerryne (married to Marco) and their grandchildren. Friends are asked not to send flowers, but rather make a donation in Ray’s name to the Theatre Benevolent Fund (FNB. Branch Code 250117. Account number 6202 439 8671.)

Amongst Ray’s extensive collection of cuttings is an un-dated profile on Ray (in his younger days) by Anne Stevens. The title of the piece is Let There Be Light - And Ray Switches On. The profile starts: “There are many lighting technicians who are just lighting technicians - but few who can be classed as artists. Ray Johnson belongs to the latter group.”

We bid a sad but fond farewell to this passionate theatre-follower and all-round gentleman. His light will always be shining down on family, friends and every member of the theatrical profession. – Barry Meehan