South African theater actor Patrick Mynhardt died Oct. 25 in Johannesburg, just hours after a West End performance of his one-man play about his life, “A Boy From Bethulie.” He was 75.
Mynhardt, born in the Free State town of Bethulie, grew up become famous for the role of storyteller Oom (Uncle) Schalk Lourens which immortalized the short stories of South African writer Herman Charles Bosman about life in the Great Marico bushveld.
Mynhardt joined the National Theater Organization in Pretoria in 1953 and appeared in English and Afrikaans plays before leaving for London, where he trained at the Central School of Drama. He spent the next six years in England, performing classics like Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekhov as well as doing work for the BBC.
He returned to South Africa in the early 1960s, and was famously quoted as saying: “If I can’t be the world’s greatest actor, Laurence Olivier, in London, then I would rather be Patrick Mynhardt in South Africa.”
Oom Schalk was born in 1968 after he read Bosman’s stories and decided “they were bloody beautiful.” His first performance as Oom Schalk was in 1969 in “A Sip of Jerepigo,” and audiences across South Africa were entranced, making both him and Bosman household names. “A Boy From Bethulie” was developed in the 1980s when he was persuaded by friends to perform his own life.
Mynhardt is survived by a son and two grandsons.