A young South African actor has been murdered just before he was to make his British stage debut in the Royal Shakespeare Company's grand festival of the Bard's complete works.
Brett Goldin, 28, who was to play Guildenstern in Hamlet, was bound, stripped and shot in the back of the head in an apparent robbery after a weekend dinner party in Cape Town, where his theatre company was having final rehearsals before flying to Britain.
The Baxter Theatre Centre company, directed by the South African actress Janet Suzman with a cast including the veteran John Kani as Claudius, was one of several international troupes invited to take part in the RSC's Complete Works event which launches in Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend.
Speaking from Cape Town yesterday, Suzman said they would be going ahead with the run of 11 performances, starting next Thursday in the Swan Theatre, in memory of the actor. "My young cast is grief-stricken. But it wasn't long before there was a general unspoken resolution that we did not want street violence to win the day. Everybody was so aware of what an honour and thrill it is to get to Stratford-upon-Avon."
With the exception of Suzman, Kani and Dorothy ann Gould, who plays Gertrude, none of the other cast members have performed in the UK before.
Suzman said: "Brett was so looking forward to it. I think he packed his bags last week, he was so excited. I suppose in some respects this brings an essentially South African dimension to this South African production. We're bringing a damaged country with us. It feels in South Africa that life appears to be cheaper than anywhere else. The meaninglessness of this death is very difficult to take on board. It's unbearable."
Gould added: "He really was an exceptionally positive, joyous human being."
Goldin, who will be buried in his family's home city of Johannesburg tomorrow, was an established television and film actor in South Africa. He had been at a party in the Camps Bay district with an up-and-coming young designer, Richard Bloom, when they were abducted on Saturday night and both killed.
Three men were arrested later that night after police stopped a car being driven in a reckless manner and discovered Goldin's credit card on one of them.
They have appeared in court on provisional charges of possession of stolen property. Two others have been arrested in connection with the murders and another suspect came forward yesterday.