Although the series ended up being
made at Sonovision Studios under the auspices of the prolific
producer, Dave Gooden, it had actually had a false start or two elsewhere.
Two pilot programmes had previously been recorded at A.F. Stanley
Studios (also known as AFS Studios), another busy
production house near the South African Broadcasting Corporation's
studios on Commissioner Street. Aside from Sonovision - who had
recently moved from their initial location on Kirk Street to a new
state-of-the-art facility on Plein Street - and AFS, there were also
studios at CRC (Commercial Radio Corporation), AKA (Audio-Kine-Africa)
and MvN (Manley van Niekerk), among others. The great bulk of
Springbok Radio output and many programmes and commercials for other
stations were produced in these production houses.
It was during 1971, several months
before the first Sonovision recordings, that the first pilot version
of The Avengers was performed and recorded at the AFS Studios.
Coincidentally, Donald Monat was also involved in this production, but
in a quite different capacity to the one that he would later enjoy.
"As far as I can remember, I played the chief villain. Someone else
played Steed, and there was a different director. I have a vague
memory that we did it twice, with two different Steeds," Monat
Neither version was deemed
satisfactory by the broadcaster or commercial sponsor. For this
reason, they never received a broadcast and no tape recordings are
known to have survived. Consequently very little is known about them.
The three actors that have been linked with playing the character in the
unbroadcast pilots are Rex Garner - who was Tony Jay's first choice
for the role - John Boulter and Angus Neill (who was strangely
credited as Steed in an early SAUK/SABC Bulletin feature). Sadly none of these actors are with
us any longer to confirm or deny the suggestions - and production
paperwork is long destroyed. The "different director" that Donald
Monat refers to is believed to have been Colin Fish, who is believed
to have directed at least one of the two pilots. Fish would go on to
play the character of Mother on a regular basis in the Dennis Folbigge
era Sonovision Avengers episodes.
Donald Monat knuckled down to other
work - of which there was always a great deal - but within a short
while was in receipt of some unexpected, but very welcome news about
The Avengers. The production was to be recorded at Sonovision
Studios, under the auspices of its owner David Gooden - and Monat
himself was being asked to play John Steed.
by Alan Hayes
with thanks to Donald Monat, Frans Erasmus and Tony Jay
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