Born to Cockney Jewish immigrant parents who were entertainers, Malcolm Purkey had a good example on which to model himself. Look him up and you find he is an actor, director, playwright, influential drama lecturer and theatre administrator. A nutshell is too small to sum up Malcolm’s astounding career. Academically he barely made matric, and yet he has a BA and Honours from Wits; an MA in Theatre Studies from the State University New York and he is a Fulbright Scholar. Not complete with that he is a Graduate of the British Film School and is presently the Dean of AFDA in Johannesburg.
His career and contribution to theatre is monumental. It started in the mad bohemian world of Adam Leslie. While still a student he designed and developed The Box and The Nunnery Theatres for Wits and then also managed the influential Workshop 71. He surrounded himself with a group of artistic academic friends who met in a house in Junction Avenue Parktown. Each went on to distinguished careers, however, before that, they formed The Junction Avenue Theatre Company that created politically conscious plays, some of which found acclaim in the UK and in America and had a huge impact and influence on theatre in South Africa.
Malcolm took a post lecturing drama at Wits becoming Head of Department and an associate Professor. He was then called to salvage and assist the Market Theatre through its struggles and turned it around.
This is the nutshell version, however, between each of these periods in his life are uncountable plays that he has directed, Brecht, Stoppard, Fo, Lorca, Soyinka…
Malcolm has been a force in the theatre community and he has had an enormous impact on hundreds of students. His contribution is inestimable, but Malcolm is highly articulate and entertaining; hear him…
“…I’m neither African nor European – I’m both. That tension interests me…”