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.

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

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?