Donald Monat was born in London, but when he was 11 years old, his family moved to South Africa where he continued his schooling and subsequently went to university. At the age of 16, Donald had won his first acting role in Johannesburg and soon became a regular performer in radio drama. This was shortly followed by a return to England in 1949, to appear in a number of stage plays in London, one of which would prove to be a very important engagement, for it brought him together for the first time with his future wife June Dixon, another Londoner, who was also in the company. They were playing the husband and wife leads in a revival of J.B. Priestley's Dangerous Corner

Donald and June went back to Johannesburg in 1950 to start up one of the very first independent radio production companies in South Africa. They produced about fifteen shows a week for the newly-created Springbok Radio, the commercial service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. After two years of hectic work, the couple went back to London in 1952, where they worked extensively in the theatre, doing plays and revues. Donald and June also made appearances in television and radio programmes and made several short films. One of them, Five Guineas A Week (1956), was nominated for the Royal Command Film Performance and opened at the Odeon Leicester Square with The Spanish Gardener. During this period in the Fifties, Donald and June also created one of the first original musical comedies for British television, The Straker Special, which starred June Whitfield and Dennis Quilley. As the decade drew to a close, Donald and June found another continent opening its doors to them, and in 1960, they went to work in Canada for two years, working mainly in radio for CBC, but also making appearances on the stage and writing and directing documentary films.

A return to South Africa in 1962 saw Donald Monat and June Dixon soon becoming stars of radio comedy with their own weekly programmes, which included The ABC Show, Dr. Livingstone - I Presume?, The Loudspeaker Show, Stop The Tape - I Want To Get Off!, Mafeking Has Been Relieved, Son Of Livingstone, and Cool.

The majority of these programmes were performed and recorded in front of studio audiences with live music from orchestras and groups, very much in the style of the classic BBC comedy shows.

In addition to their comedy appearances, Donald and June also worked as actors or writers and directors in dozens of other shows, not least of which was The Avengers, in which Donald played the central character, John Steed, and June would occasionally appear in guest roles. Donald and June worked in South African radio for a period of twenty years (1962-1982), and they played in well over two thousand radio programmes during this time.

In the Seventies and early Eighties, Donald and June, while continuing their radio work, also moved into films and television in South Africa. Their first feature, written by themselves and entitled Fraud! (1974), was a low-budget thriller directed by Donald, with June playing one of the lead roles. This was followed up with another directorial project for Monat, The Snatchers, in 1974. The couple also wrote and starred in a prime time comedy TV series called The Saturday Show and wrote and produced an original TV musical based on O. Henry's famous short story, The Gift Of The Magi

Finally, in 1984, they moved to Los Angeles, USA, where they have settled, working mainly as writers and producers of corporate multi-media presentations. Although radio drama is virtually non-existent in America, Donald Monat still undertakes voice work engagements for narration, commercials and books-on-tape. One of Donald and June's audiobooks is English ... As She Is Spoke!, a highly entertaining dissertation on the many ways in which our crazy language is used and abused.

by Alan Hayes with Donald Monat

 

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