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Sunday, September 13, 2020


(Roger Service, Robert Beatty and Glyn Day (back row) with Margaret Milner-Smythe/Logan, Roelf Jacobs, Midge Doherty and Lyn Brown/Darnley. Taken after a radio drama directed by Roelf Jacobs at the SABC in Durban)

South African theatre, television and radio drama audiences will remember Lyn Darnley (nee Brown) who appeared in numerous radio dramas in the early 1970s, going on to become a television presenter and full-time actress. She also worked for NAPAC (now the Playhouse Company). She married fellow actor Brian Darnley and together they toured schools as part of his Theatre-In-Education Company.

The Darnleys left South Africa in 1980. Lyn worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company RSC from 1992 to 2014. She was Head of Voice, Text and Artist Development from 2003 until her retirement and former Head of Voice at Rose Bruford College. Her qualifications include an M Phil from the University of Birmingham and a PhD from the University of London. She led workshops in the United Kingdom, United States, Europe, Africa and Australia and worked on productions in the West End and on television.

Lyn Darnley passed away in the UK on September 8, 2020, peacefully at her home in Stratford in the UK. She is survived by her husband Brian, her son Christopher and her daughter Olivia. Olivia explains that she had been in the final stages of palliative care after a recurrence of a cancer first diagnosed in 2014.

(Lyn & Brian Darnley)

Well-known Durban actress Margaret Logan (formerly Milner-Smythe) pays this tribute:

“We first met in the Durban studios of the SABC. A newcomer to radio, Lynette Brown was a pretty, fresh-faced girl who played several parts, including an impressive performance as a young boy. Along with other members of cast, Lyn needed a lift home to Morningside, and so began a life-long friendship.

It wasn’t long before the mention of Brian Darnley, a young English actor then working in Durban, slipped into our home-bound conversations. Lyn was careful not to appear too friendly with this fellow who lived at the same digs, so the news of their marriage came as quite a surprise. Throughout her life, the need for privacy drove Lyn to underplay even her most major life events. 

Brian and Lyn turned out to be a marvellous team. They worked extensively in theatre for NAPAC, acted in radio plays and serials at the SABC and independent production houses, and taught at the Catherine King school of Speech and Drama. Lyn also taught at schools, driving all the way to Pietermaritzburg to teach my daughter Penny and other students at Girls‘ Collegiate. In time, this dynamic duo took over from Catherine King, bringing an exciting new approach to teaching at the school, and awarding scholarships to promising pupils whose families weren’t able to pay fees. Lyn also squeezed in time to have baby Christopher and study for her LTCL, while Brian began experimenting with video and film direction.

But Johannesburg beckoned. Lyn was soon presenting her own popular children’s TV show, while Brian worked in stage, radio and TV. Baby Olivia arrived, yet Lyn generously cared for my three year-old Leanne when my rehearsals for a TV production of Antigone went on until midnight.

Shortly before leaving for the UK in November 1980, Lyn sent me a precious letter from their home in Melville. The Darnleys were leaving in five weeks’ time, but Lyn found time to tell me how much she and Brian had enjoyed my son Jamie’s performance in the TV series Hospital. I still have the letter in a drawer next to my bed.

Lyn’s career in the UK is now history. She taught at the prestigious Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance before a job offer by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford arrived. It meant sacrifices had to be made by Lyn and Brian, but, as an actor, he knew what an important step this was for her. Young Christopher also understood: It was an honour in the same league as representing your country at a major sport, he told me. Brian didn’t hesitate. Lyn must take this opportunity. Somehow they would make it work. And they did.

Now she is gone, but all that was wonderful about her is still with us. Lyn asked her family and friends to read a piece by Charles Handy. He reminds us of the inevitability of death, but adds: “you will live on processed into the memory of things by the people who knew and loved you”. 

Tributes from those who worked with her bear testimony to Dr Lyn Darnley’s contribution to British theatre and the development of young actors at the RSC. They will remember Lyn for her achievements, and the work that helped them towards a successful career. We will remember her as someone who gave tirelessly to everyone. A beloved friend. Pure gold.”

(Lyn Darnley in later years, pic courtesy

Former student Antonia Gialerakis pays her tribute:

“I first met Lyn and Brian Darnley when, at just over 8 years of age, I walked into the Anne Freed School of Speech and Drama in Durban to attend my first speech class with Lynette Brown as she was then. Beautiful, inspiring, funny and kind, Lyn was a brilliant and exacting teacher who demanded and drew out the best in all of us. For nearly a decade, I continued to study speech and drama with Lyn and Brian Darnley at their drama school. Speech and Drama, dance and later, gruelling but rewarding voice production classes with the inimitable Katherine King became my world.

Years later, Brian and Lyn Darnley were already living in the UK when I arrived here in 1987. Lyn was giving voice and speech classes at the RSC and went on to become head of her department there. Lyn and I remained in contact and, when we could, we would meet up when she was in London. My teacher and mentor became my friend. I'm beyond saddened to hear that Lyn Darnley left us last night. RIP Lynette Darnley. Thank you, Thank you for everything you ever were and will always be to me. I believe I now have one more angel looking down on me.”

Lynn Darnley’s latest book, with co-author Stephanie Martin, is The Voice in Education (2018). Their previous publications include The Voice Box, The Voice Sourcebook and The Teaching Voice.