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 lead 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.
A 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.
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.
Alan Hayes with Donald Monat and Frans Erasmus