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DEATH OF ANNE FREED (article first published : 2002-11-20)

Doyenne of radio theatre in Durban, Anne Freed, passed away in Durban on November 18 at the age of 94.

Born in Durban on January 19, 1908, she was educated at Maris Stella. She studied singing under Grogan Caney and acting under Mavis Wayne before going on to London to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and the Royal College of Music.

On her return to South Africa, she opened her own studio and did her own productions. This was when she met her future husband Harold Freed who had just returned from studying at Cambridge University and was a keen amateur theatrical performer.

They were married in 1935 and so began a long and productive personal and professional relationship. They had three daughters, Rosemary (now Zulman), Sandra (now Blou) and Lynn. They produced many theatre plays at the Jewish Club and at the Lyric as well as shows for the Natal Performing Arts Council (now the Playhouse Company).

With well-known producer Cedric Messina, she was instrumental in building up the Durban dramatic contingent of the SABC. Anne Freed Theatre Productions went on to create numerous plays and serials on Springbok Radio as well. She also had her own theatre school and among her tutors were the legendary musical director Geoffrey Sutherland, top ex-RADA voice production expert Katherine King and respected broadcaster Philip Armitage.

Lynn, who has retained her maiden name, is a successful author who has published five books with a sixth pending publication. Now living in California, she has fond memories of her parents: “It was a fairly stormy marriage and they argued a lot!” she says. “But they were inseparable and I think they spent no less than seven nights apart. Dad died a few days after their 60th wedding anniversary.

“Mum was a professional lyric soprano and I remember the stories we were told as children of how Dad used to fetch her from the City Hall after she had been singing in a concert. He had an old bakkie and she would come out from the concert dressed in all her finery, get into the car and sit on a petrol drum!

“The best way to describe her is by an expression coined by Ernest Hemingway – she had a “shockproof shit detector” and her uncompromising standard was invincible,” says Lynn. “She was the first to read my books and was my best critic. She loved nothing more than a good production and played her own life to the hilt.

“She loved the classics and adored Ibsen and Chekov. A favourite play was The Man Who Came to Dinner. But whatever production she was doing was the most important thing and the whole household was consumed by it!”

It is ironic that just as the death of Anne Freed marks the passing of an era of radio drama, it also heralds the beginnings of a new era as there is much speculation that the Vintage Radio programme which incorporates many Springbok Radio dramas, may expand to more than one night a week.

More information regarding Anne Freed and the radio drama era can be found at www.pumamouse.com - Caroline Smart




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