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.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam