Sketch by Isaac Rosenberg 1914
|Born||Margaretha van Hulsteyn
27 September 1896
Pretoria, South Africa
|Died||27 April 1970:48
|Resting place||Gunnersbury Cemetery, London, England|
Margaretha was born in Pretoria, South Africa to Sir Willem and Lady van Hulsteyn. Willem was born in the Netherlands in 1865 and emigrated to South Africa at the age of fifteen. He became a leading lawyer in Johannesburg and later a member of the South African Parliament for many years. During the South African War, he became an advisor to Lord Milner, the Governor of the Cape Colony, and was knighted by King Edward VII in 1902.
In 1914, Marda met Isaac Rosenberg, who was on a visit to South Africa, in Cape Town. He took a shine to her and drew a charcoal sketch of her. He also gave her a copy of his poem "If You Are Fire, and I Am Fire" and wrote a number of passionate love-poems at the time, which seem to have been inspired by her.
Marda Vanne moved to London in 1918 to build on her acting career and studied speech training and drama under Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London. After graduating she met director Basil Dean who recognised her talent and she had a successful career in the West End. She also performed on Broadway in Noël Coward's Easy Virtue (1925), directed by Dean, and Many Waters (1929) by Monckton Hoffe.
Marda became a good friend of Alec Waugh, the brother of Evelyn Waugh. Alec noted in one of his books that Marda tended to be cast in supporting roles. He suggested that it was because she "lacked sex appeal on stage. ... She lacked lightness. She did not look embraceable. I pictured her in more emotional roles, as a mature woman." He wrote that although she had several affairs with men, her main interest was women.
John Gielgud also became a good friend of Marda's and mentions her in his writings.
South African company
In London, she formed a professional and personal partnership with actress Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies that lasted until her death in 1970. The couple founded a theatre company in South Africa, at the outbreak of World War II, when most of the London theatres were dark. They toured the provinces, including appearances at the Hoffmeyer Theatre in Cape Town. There they performed their production of Twelfth Night in which Marda played Maria and Gwen played Olivia. They also produced and acted in the play Quality Street by James Barrie. They played 44 towns in fifteen weeks and made a small profit. Vanne also appeared as Madame Arcati in a production of Blythe Spirit in Johannesburg, and she and Gwen brought their production of The Merry Wives of Windsor to the Alhambra Theatre in Cape Town in 1945.
- If (1921) by Lord Dunsany – Mary Beal
- King Lear's Wife (1921) by Gordon Bottomley – Hygd
- Amphitryon; or, The Two Socia's (1922) by John Dryden – Phaedra
- Loyalties (1922) by John Galsworthy – Margaret Orme
- The Maid's Tragedy (1925) by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher – Dula
- Rain (1925) by John Colton and Clemence Randolph (based on W. Somerset Maugham's story "Miss Thompson") – Mrs. Davidson
- Easy Virtue (1926) by Noël Coward – Marion
- Made in Heaven (1926 by Phyllis Morris – Jane Chute
- The Marriage of Figaro (1926) by Barry V. Jackson (after Beaumarchais) – Suzanne
- The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd (1926) – Mrs Holroyd[Note 2][Note 3]
- The Constant Wife (1927) by W. Somerset Maugham[Note 4]
- The Desperate Lovers (1927) by Alfred Sutro – Lady Eulalie Havers
- The Happy Husband (1927) by Harrison Owen – Stella Tolhurst
- Home Chat (1927) by Noël Coward – Mavis Wittersham
- Many Waters (1928) by Monckton Hoffe – Mabel Wingrove, Mabel Barcaldine
- Two White Arms (1928) by Harold Dearden – Lydia Charrington
- Cape Forlorn (1930)
- For Services Rendered (1932) by W. Somerset Maugham – Gwen Cedar[Note 5]
- Pleasure Cruise (1932) by Austen Allen – Judy Mills
- At 8 a.m. (1935) by Jan Fabricius
- Parnell (1936) by Elsie T. Schauffler – Mrs Benjamin Wood[Note 6]
- The King of Nowhere (1937) by James Bridie
- Lovers' Meeting (1937) by Leonard Ide
- The Provoked Wife (1937) – Lady Fanciful
- The Flashing Stream (1938) by Charles Morgan – Lady Helston
- Madmoiselle (1941) (in Afrikaans) with Siegfried Mynhardt
- Six Characters in Search of an Author (1954) by Luigi Pirandello
- Morning's at Seven (1956)
- Man and Superman (1965)
- The Great Adventure (1939)
- Passion, Poison and Petrifaction (1939)
- Prelude to Glory (1954)
- BBC Sunday-Night Theatre (1957)
- Peace and Quiet (1957)
- Vanity Fair (1957)
- Our Mutual Friend (1958)
- Dark Possession (1959)
- The Eustace Diamonds (1959)
- Knight Errant Limited (1960)
- Somerset Maugham Hour (1960)
- The First Gentleman (1961)
- Emergency-Ward 10 (1964)
- Theatre 625 (1965)
- Out of the Unknown (1965)
- Middlemarch (1968)
- BBC Play of the Month (1970)
- The Words Upon the Window Pane (1937) by William Butler Yeats
- One source, a close friend, spells her name "Margueretha".
- "Miss Marda Vanne, as Mrs. Holroyd, made the transition from passivity to passion, from wife to lover, with a complete mastery of the quietest method. This was muted acting at its best ...she possesses a comparatively rare gift. Whenever she is motionless her attitudes are significant; when she is still and silent her body continues to act, and she spoke with a peremptory impulsiveness admirably suited to the part." – Desmond MacCarthy (18 Dec. 1926) The New Statesman
- "...gave a beautifuuly balanced and emotional performance as the play's tormented heroine." – H.H. (24 Dec. 1926) The Outlook p. 629
- "Miss Marda Vanne is an actress of extreme flexibility. She changes style, looks, and mood for every part she plays, and again she was brilliantly not herself." – Ivor Brown (April 1927) Saturday Review
- "...and especially Marda Vanne in the awkward part of Mrs Cedar are others whom one would like to praise at length." – Peter Fleming (November 1932) Spectator
- "...and from the power of [the performance] of Miss Marda Vanne as Mrs. O'Shea's shewd old aunt. ...and, particularly, Miss Marda Vanne in the dry precision of her wit...." – Charles Morgan (24 April 1936) The Times
- "Marda Vanne". IMDB.com. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- Kathleen Riley (2004) Nigel Hawthorne on Stage, p.16, Univ. of Hertfordshire Press, Hatfield ISBN 978-1-90280-629-7
- Martial Rose (2003). Forever Juliet: the Life and Letters of Gwen Ffrangçon-Davies, 1891-1992. Dereham, UK: Larks Press. ISBN 978-1-90400-612-1.
- "Marda Vanne (1896 - 1970)". Find a Grave Memorial. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- Alec Waugh (1975) A Year to Remember: A Reminiscence of 1931, W.H. Allen & Co ISBN 978-1-44820-127-3
- "Shakespeare in South Africa: The earlier twentieth century". Internet Shakespeare Editions. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- Michael Green (2004) Around and About: Memoires of a South African Newspaperman, David Philip Publishers, Cape Town ISBN 0-86486-660-7
- "A lady who worried about Donald's shirts". Independent Online. 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2010-03-29.[dead link]
- Jean Moorcroft Wilson (2007) Isaac Rosenberg: The Making of a Great War Poet: A New Life, Northwestern University Press ISBN 978-0-81012-604-6
- V&A, Theatre and Performance Special Collections, Elsie Fogerty Archive, THM/324
- Neville Phillips (2008) The Stage Struck Me!, Troubador Publishing Ltd, Leicester, UK ISBN 978-1-90651-043-5
- Marda Vanne at the Internet Broadway Database
- Jonathan Croall (2011) John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star, Methuen Drama ISBN 978-1-40813-106-0
- "Africa to Get Soaps if Govt. Okays Commercials" (Nov 16, 1946) The Billboard Vol 58 No. 46 pp. 3,13
- "Shakespeare in South Africa", Internet Shakespeare Editions
- Horace Hodges and T. Wigney Percyval (1921) Grumpy: A Play in Four Acts, Samuel French
- The Encyclopaedia of South African Theatre, Film, Media and Performance (ESAT)
- Guy Butler (1991) A Local Habitation: An Autobiography, 1945-90, New Africa Books, Cape Town ISBN 0-86486-180-X
- "A Prize Play Triumphs over Poor Acting" (22 May 1952) Rand Daily Mail
- Joanna at the Internet Movie Database
- Passion, Poison and Petrifaction at the Internet Movie Database
- Peace and Quiet at the Internet Movie Database
- "Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Twentieth-Century Actress" by Dr Helen Grime, p. 52