British-born Diane Appleby commenced her acting career on stage
in London's West End and in repertory theatre. She had also
appeared in a television series, The First Lady, a BBC1
production from 1968/9 which, in time honoured fashion, the
corporation duly destroyed not long after transmission. In 1969,
Diane was lured to South Africa, initially for a twenty-week run
at the Academy Theatre, Johannesburg, of the comedy Chase Me
Comrade. The engagement led to other theatrical work and
Diane decided to stay in South Africa. An actress with a talent
for comedy, she went on to feature in many further productions
at the Academy and other theatres.
In 1971, Diane made the break into South African radio and ended
up playing in many series. Her first roles were in the play
series, such as Lux Radio Theatre and Playhouse 71,
before landing the regular role of secretary Sally Walker in
Jessica Marlowe. In late 1971, she was offered the role of
Emma Peel in The Avengers, which she described in
SAUK-SABC Bulletin as "a super part", noting that it had been
very helpful to her to have been able to see screenings of the
British television series upon which it was based. The series
made Diane Appleby a household name in South Africa.
Undoubtedly, her most memorable role in radio drama was in
Jet Jungle, a long-running Springbok Radio adventure serial
for children, in which she played the female lead, Samantha
Muller, to Brian O'Shaughnessy's eponymous hero. She also
provided the voice of Zack, an eight-year old boy.
dependable and talented performer, Diane is also well-remembered
for a bizarre recording session for Jet Jungle. At the
time, she was heavily pregnant, and unable to stand for any
length of time. Rather than miss the recording, Appleby asked if
she might lie down to record the episode. Her request was
granted, but this of course meant that the rest of the cast had
to join her on the floor around the lowered microphone!
Diane went on to enjoy a successful career as a Dubbing Director
in the South African film and television industry.
She married fellow radio
actor and Avengers guest player
Joe Stewardson in 1973.
Their son Mathew Stewardson (1974-2010) followed his parents
into the acting profession and featured in films such as
Final Cut (1989), The Redemption: Kickboxer 5 (1995)
and Idols (2002).
Sadly, Diane Appleby suffered a series of strokes in early
November 2006, and died suddenly and unexpectedly on Thursday
9th November 2006, aged just 64. Diane was a major contributor
to South African radio, television and film over four decades,
and will be fondly remembered by many South Africans, and by
Avengers fans throughout the world.
by Alan Hayes with Donald
Monat and Frans Erasmus