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Friday, September 11, 2015


(Greig Coetzee & Garth Anderson)

Award winning writer and actor, Greig Coetzee (“White Men with Weapons”, “Happy Natives” and “Johnny Boskak Is Feeling Funny”, among others) has penned this tribute to his friend, colleague and mentor, the late Garth Anderson.:

“I first saw Garth perform in a corner of the Hermit Restaurant in Durban back in the early 80’s. Our starters were served, the lights dimmed, a pianist (Melvin Peters, I think) tickled the ivories on an upright, and then a dashing, twenty-something Garth entered (from the kitchen), in a black tux, as Noel Coward. And there it was … a show appearing like magic, out of nothing.

Right there, in that small moment of alchemy, was one of the best lessons I've ever had in making theatre: With a bit of gumption, you can make it happen just about anywhere out of almost nothing.

I met Garth when, as a 16-year-old-who-knew-everything, I tried to direct and produce a musical as a charity fundraiser at the St John’s Theatre in Old Fort Road. Garth was going through one of his occasional phases of trying to have a 'proper job' as a manager at Computicket (all the while, of course, still moonlighting as a performer).

I arrived at his office to persuade this "Mr Anderson" to donate Computicket’s services to the project. He did so without hesitating, and probably without his bosses knowing. And when I failed to secure the rights for the musical, instead of calling it a day, Garth insisted we could create our own script. Over late night coffees in his Albert Park flat, I watched as Garth edited and rewrote a few of the Just So Stories, cobbled together some lyrics and, in a few days, came up with a shambolic script with musical bits called Carry on Kipling.

Armed with this cut-and-paste masterpiece, I stumbled through directing a rag-tag bunch of amateurs, including my sisters, some neighbours and whoever else I could drag aboard. Despite Garth helping when he could, the show was awful and it played to an average audience of about two.

However, I came out of it with Garth as my big brother and we’ve been blood ever since. It was the first of many crazy, wonderful, terrifying, funny, challenging, infuriating, joyful adventures I was to have with the man. And, 13 years after that first terrible production, we opened White Men with Weapons at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York.

But it’s not the work we did together that I value the most. It’s the times he made me laugh:

Like Garth spoonerising the name of the coffee shop Petit Suisse into a something a lot less appealing. Or a fat Garth dragging me into a swimwear shop on the Durban beachfront, horrifying the shop assistants by insisting he was there to purchase a bikini and almost convincing them to help him try one on. Or Garth dressing his very patient cats as Romeo and Juliet and then making them perform the balcony scene with him doing their voices. And, if I ever need to smile, I simply have to think of Garth’s inimitable portrayal of Thisbe, complete with extremely bad balloon breasts.

At various points over the years, Garth has been my mentor, brother, director and favourite batty aunt. Bits of our crazy friendship will always be with me. And that’s a good thing.” – Greig Coetzee