Anthony Bishop, rich gift before heaven



BORN for the stage, Anthony Bishop. Photograph courtesy

Ferociously gifted artist, dedicated mentor and masterful stage performer, Anthony Bishop, was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Johannesburg on 21 October 2019. He was 48.

Bishop set his sights on pursuing a career as an artist at an early age. Born in Bethlehem in the Free State on 29 September 1971, he was just 16 when his zest for adventure and success as an actor was evident: he was cast in the cameo role of a waiter in the 1987 Ridley Scott film Someone to Watch Over Me, set in New York City. After matriculating, Bishop made the exciting decision to move away from his home province to the Western Cape, to train to be a professional actor.

He shone during his undergraduate years at the drama school of the University of Cape Town, and was nominated for a Fleur du Cap award for the most promising student in 1991 and 1992. In 1992, when he graduated with a Performer’s Diploma in Speech and Drama, he was also awarded the prestigious Ruth Pfeffer Prize for the best drama student.

The complexity of Shakespeare’s characters was the substance that launched Bishop into the professional theatre world and he performed in more than five Shakespearean works during the early part of his career, including The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His capacity in the theatre soon stretched to directing, and his debut in this sphere was the British comedy Sleeping Around, staged in 1999 at the then Agfa Theatre on the Square – today known as the Auto and General Theatre on the Square – in Sandton.

Making the transition from theatre to film and television, Bishop rapidly began to diversify his artistic career and resumé, by being cast in several M-Net and SABC3 television series. Among his most well-known roles are that of “Prospero Brand”, in the M-Net drama series Jacob’s Cross from 2007 to 2012, as well as his appearance as “Michael”; the antagonist of the SABC3 drama series Shado’s. The silver screen was not beyond his reach, either, and he performed in the likes of Merlin: The Return (2000), Askari with deaf actress Marlee Matlin (2001), and Machine Gun Preacher (2011) to name but a few. Unafraid to pursue roles away from the comfort of his home country, he performed as a guest in the Canadian series The Adventures of Sinbad, filmed in Ontario and Cape Town, which was broadcasted in Canada and the United States.

Bishop’s acceptance of lead roles but also lesser roles in theatre, television and film productions, is a true reflection of the harshness of the field of theatre performer, and also of his indomitable spirit.

It was in the later years of his career on stage that he became drawn to the idea of aiding the vulnerable in our society. He worked as a counsellor at the Healing Wings Rehabilitation and Recovery Treatment Centre in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, where he provided support and enabled the youth to overcome their addictions and behavioural problems. At Healing Wings, his kind and loving heart is remembered, and his legacy of selflessness and compassion is survived by the lives he touched.

Anthony Bishop leaves his mother and step-dad Yvonne and Sergio de Freitas, his brother and sister-in-law Robert and Jennifer, his nephews Taegue and Beauman, his very beloved godson Connor and cousin Mackenzie, and a family who loved him deeply, as well as hundreds of former colleagues, fellow actors, friends and mentees.

  • Isabeau Joubert is a first year Fine Arts student at the University of Pretoria. She is part of the VIT 101 class, being taught the rudiments of arts writing by Robyn Sassen during 2020.

2 replies »

  1. Wonderful tribute Isabeau. We need this type of writing to acknowledge young artists and philanthropists who are prepared to humble themselves in contributing to the needs of others and motivating fellow-artlovers.

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