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The Lion and the Thespian


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The Lion and the Thespian

David Bloomberg discusses his book The Lion and the Thespian. (Editing: Lionel da Silva)

29th September 2017


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Margaretha van Hulsteyn (also known as Scrappy) is the daughter of respected Pretoria attorney Sir Willem van Hulsteyn, and an aspiring actress.

While studying in London after the Great War, Scrappy changes her name to Marda Vanne and enters into a relationship with one of the foremost actresses of her day, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies. However, on a visit to her parents in the Union of South Africa, Marda meets Hans Strydom, an attorney and uncompromising radical politician with the soubriquet 'The Lion of the North'.


Their meeting changes the course of her life, at least temporarily... Strydom went on to become a principal progenitor of the harshest discriminatory legislation which endured for decades until his nephew, President FW de Klerk, in a volte-face, dismantled the laws of apartheid.

A work of biographical fiction, The Lion and the Thespian is based on the true story of the marriage of Hans Strydom, prime minister of South Africa from 1954 to 1958, to the actress Marda Vanne.


Veteran author David Bloomberg, following extensive reading and research, has adhered faithfully to the chronology of the lives of the main protagonists, their personalities and the historical facts with which they were associated. Creative license has allowed Bloomberg to recreate appropriate scenes and dialogue, complemented by reported sources and recorded speeches.

About the author

David Bloomberg first came to prominence in the 1950s and 60s as an esteemed man of the professional theatre. He subsequently embraced the legal profession, the business world, and civic politics. During his twenty-year service on the Cape Town City Council, he was mayor between 1973 and 1975. A one-time columnist for Cape Town newspapers, The Lion and the Thespian is his seventh book. He and his wife, Rochelle, live in Lugano, Switzerland, but remain frequent visitors to South Africa.

The Lion and the Thespian is published by Bookstorm Publishers


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