Obituary: David Segal

One of the most popular figures in English Yiddish theatre for nearly 50 years was the splendid character actor David Segal.

He found his true metier and great popularity in comedy character roles. His entrance was always greeted by a warm round of applause, which would later erupt into gales of laughter.

Playing in weekly repertory, it would have been easy for him to impose the persona of David Segal on to the stock comedy characters that were part of the repertoire. Instead, he chose to immerse himself in the character he was playing and would transform himself into the hen-pecked husband, the put-upon beadle of the local synagogue, or the busybody matchmaker.

Segal had received his training in classical Yiddish theatre and could acquit himself admirably in many of the classic roles of the repertoire. Particular highlights of his work were Hershele, the Scribe in Gordin's God, Man and Devil, the Rabbi in Anski's The Dybbuck and what the press described as "a towering performance" in the Sholem Aleiche Centenary production of Hard to be a Jew. He won great acclaim when playing the title role in the Yiddish production of The Merchant of Venice in 1946.

Segal's great versatility was helped by his mastery of the art of make- up. This was extraordinary, as he was colour-blind and could only choose the correct colour by checking the numbers on his make-up sticks.

David Segal was born in Vilna, Poland, into a family with no theatrical background, but his love of the Yiddish language and the theatre led him to join an amateur group as a teenager and he became a professional actor in his early twenties. He toured Poland with the leading Yiddish actors of the day and from 1928 until 1933 appeared in Romania along with his wife, the actress Meta Segal.

They both arrived in London in 1933 as members of the Pavilion Theatre company, under the aegis of the actress/manager Madam Fanny Waxman. These were the final performances of Yiddish theatre at the Pavilion before it closed later that year. With Fanny Waxman's company, the Segals toured the provinces and later appeared in Belgium, alongside such luminaries as Jacob Ben Ami and Berta Gersten.

David Segal later became a member of the Yiddish National Theatre, in the East End of London, under the artistic direction of Meier Tzelniker, with whom he later successfully toured South Africa.

The outbreak of the Second World War found Segal on the sea voyage back to England, where he and his wife decided to make their permanent home. He joined the company at the Grand Palais, where he worked until the theatre closed in the early Sixties, and then toured with the company, which went on to operate on a mobile basis. He continued to work until his 80th year.David Segal, actor: born Vilna, Poland 22 October 1901; married Meta Sloviesna (died 1982); died London 6 February 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss