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MRS ANDRE TURNS 90 (article first published : 2000-09-10)

Always smiling, gracious and impeccably groomed, Mrs Augusta André is a well-known and much-loved figure in Durban theatre circles. For close on 37 years she has been working for the Playhouse Company and its predecessor the Natal Performing Arts Council (Napac) as a member of the foyer staff since the days when Napac used the Alhambra Theatre as its home.

Napac then moved to the re-furbished Playhouse Complex and since then, Mrs André has been a familiar figure selling programmes at her attractive wooden “barrow” kiosk in the foyer. Yesterday (September 9), she turned 90 and her daughters arranged a slap-up party for her at the Greyville Racecourse’s Palm Court Room. She astounded both friends and family with her stamina and was seen several times on the dance floor showing that she could still show the youngsters a thing or two.

Born in 1910, she had a brother who died and five sisters – the only surviving sister now lives in Norway. She married and produced five daughters who eventually all married. Her husband died about 35 years ago, leaving her bereaved but with a tremendously supportive family. Four of her daughters have born her 12 grandchildren between them, some of whom are now married. There are now 12 great grandchildren, the youngest of which is 18-months old and lives in New York.

Mrs André’s daughters were instilled with a love of theatre at an early age when their mother would play the piano while their father sang. Their home life was filled with music, song and dance and some members of the family have chosen to take their talents further.

Ninety years is an impressive age – Mrs Augusta André has lived through three major phases in South African government and two world wars as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. She’s seen travel go from horse-drawn cart to space flight and watched a man walk on the moon. The recording of the music she loves so much has gone from 78rpm to digital and the manual typewriter of her youth has been replaced by the sophisticated computer programming of today.

She’s also seen actor Greig Coetzee, whom she first met as a little boy of seven appearing in John Moss’s pantomimes at the Alhambra Theatre, grow in stature as an actor and playwright. He has now achieved at least 21 awards for his work and recently returned from the Edinburgh Festival, having scooped two major awards on the Fringe.

“I feel wonderful,” said a smiling Mrs André last night, surrounded by her loved ones. “I don’t feel 90 at all, I feel at least 16!”




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