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Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Tribute by Jürgen Hellberg

The South African Film, Theatre and Television industry mourns the death of one of its most beloved and respected characters, Gregory (Greg) Melvill-Smith.

Greg was raised in Pretoria and attended Pretoria Boys High, and later The Glen High School in Waterkloof Glen, at the same time as Hollywood actress Embeth Davidtz.

In 1982 he enrolled at the Pretoria Technikon School of Performing Arts, where he trained as an actor. His absolute dedication and passion for the arts was soon recognised.  In the three years that he was there he performed in 36 student productions; 24 more than what was expected of the students at the time. On completion of his National Diploma in Performing Arts – Drama in 1984, he moved to Durban and became a founding member of The Loft Theatre company where he stayed for three years before moving back North and settling in Johannesburg.

Whilst at the Loft he acted in productions such as Boo to the Moon, Tales of The Pleasure Palace and Clowns on an Outing. He toured Europe with the International award winning productions KwaManzi and Horn of Sorrow. During this time he also married his High School sweetheart, Kenda Thistlewhite. Loft Theatre company founder, Nicholas Ellenbogen, described him as the cornerstone of the company, and the epitome of a well-balanced actor.

Greg was an energetic and funny man which made him extremely popular and it wasn’t long before he became a very busy freelance actor in Johannesburg. His voice was regularly heard on TV and radio  ads and he acted in many movies including Paradise Road, The Bang, Bang Club, The Angel, Bicycle and the Chinaman’s Finger, District 9 and most recently the internationally acclaimed TV series Black Sails. On local TV he featured in Isidingo, SewendeLaan, Binnelanders and many others. But theatre remained his first love. He is remembered for his superb reading of Kent in King Lear and his brilliant Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet.

In the 90s, Greg developed a passion for Palaeoanthropology. Using theatre as an education tool he began working with school groups in the Cradle of Humankind, and developed lessons on the origins of humankind and the hominids that roamed the area. In 2002 he wrote, directed and managed Walking Tall; an educational theatre piece that toured South African schools and Arts and Science festivals both locally and as far afield as Tanzania, Uganda and Sweden.

But that wasn’t enough for him, he needed more stimulation. So he trained as a business coach and later became a director of The Human Resource Co. Despite his illness he continued coaching after his first cancer operation in October last year and only slowed down in March this year when advised to do so by his doctors.

He was loved by all and was truly a colossus in the industry. But his passions lay not only with his work, life, his art and his family. He also loved stirring trouble. Once at a dull party he called the police, pretending to be a frustrated neighbour and complained about the noise. He then repeated the exercise a few more times with different accents. When the police arrived he stood aside and watched as the police argued with the frustrated partygoers who had in fact been very well-behaved. Then, just as it seemed there could be trouble, he intervened, praised the cops and moaned at his colleagues for being so disrespectful. The police left feeling satisfied, and the boring party immediately livened up.

Greg leaves behind his wife Kenda, daughters Kaila and Natasha, but will be missed by thousands. - Jürgen Hellberg