Sylvester's story

Acting Days

 Letter offering employment at the Old Vic Theatre Company

Letter offering employment at the Old Vic Theatre Company

1945 Sylvester de-mobbed early at the end of the war and took a job at the Old Vic playing alongside Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Sybil Thorndike … a member of the crowd or a spear-carrier, as required.

At the same time he studied at the Central School of Drama, then billeted at the Royal Albert Hall.

Then I saw a taxi charging past. So I called him. I told him the Albert Hall first. I told him could he hurry? He pushed back the window behind him and said to me half over his shoulder: “Have you up there on the stage in seven minutes, love.” He drove off, twisting the cab around in the street: “What turn you in, love, is it the Scotch dancing or the boxing?”Kind old sod. “No,” I said, “actually I’m the new bird for the bird show.”“Ow, didn’t know you’d got your wings,” he said. At the Albert Hall I told him to wait. Only I didn’t tell him how long. I walked in through the ticket office part, then I walked upstairs to the Crush Room, then all around through the long circular walk, down to the other entrance, and out round to the next floor, then down a bit, then along, along some more, then right, then left––you know it’s so big you could get lost there a week. Then right, then left, then out round to the back, then out through the little door and out along past the university and off to the coffee bar.  From: What the World Owes Me by Mary Bowes

He lodged with his friend Harry Bloom in an old tenement block in New Compton Street. His book, Old Letch, was inspired by this period.

 Sylvester having a bath in a New Compton Street tenement

Sylvester having a bath in a New Compton Street tenement

 The Faber cover for Old Letch, designed by his friend Malcolm Hart.

The Faber cover for Old Letch, designed by his friend Malcolm Hart.

1946 Joined Beatrix Lehmann's repertory company, the Arts Council Midland Theatre, based in Coventry

1947 Returned to South Africa and joined the Munro-Inglis Theatre Company.