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Avengers on the Radio designed, maintained and Copyright by Alan and Alys Hayes.

The Avengers is Copyright CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd. No attempt to infringe this copyright is intended. 

2. THE PATH TO SONOVISION

Before the series got underway at Sonovision Studios, two pilot shows for the The Avengers were made at A.F. Stanley (a.k.a. AFS) Studios, another recording facility in Johannesburg. There were, in fact, a good many production houses within walking distance of SABC's Broadcast House on Commissioner Street at the time of The Avengers. 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 a busy old life being involved in the production of South African radio!

Just Who was the Original Radio Steed?

The Big Mystery... 
Just who was the original radio Steed?

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 recalls. It would appear that neither version was what was hoped for, and clearly, there was some uncertainty over the casting of John Steed. Two names that have been suggested as being possible Steeds in the unbroadcast pilots are Rex Garner - who was Tony Jay's first choice for the role - and John Boulter, who sadly is no longer with us to confirm or deny the theory. The "different director" that Donald Monat refers to is believed to have been Colin Fish, who would play the character of Mother 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 shifted to the recording studios at Sonovision - and Monat himself was being asked to play John Steed.

DESTINATION SONOVISION...

David Gooden at Sonovision Studios

David Gooden, Producer... 
David Gooden, at his Johannesburg production house, Sonovision Studios.

Once Sonovision had been confirmed as producing the radio series, they received a large number of television scripts of The Avengers from EMI, who were the television series' owners at the time. Under the auspices of David Gooden, series producer and owner of Sonovision Studios, Tony Jay was engaged to adapt these scripts for radio. Jay, an actor, writer and director on a multitude of South African radio productions, is now better known for his work in America as an actor and commercial voice artiste. His brief on The Avengers was wide-ranging - in addition to his scripting duties, Jay was also in charge of casting and would go on to direct the productions.

Tony Jay recalls his time at Sonovision with fondness. "My association with the wonderful Dave Gooden was very close, and I produced and acted in innumerable series and one-off plays at Sonovision over a period of about six years, during which time I had virtually carte-blanche as to how I wished to proceed and whom I wished to cast."

Initially, Tony Jay had approached the highly-regarded British actor, Rex Garner, to play the part of John Steed. "With the late Dave Gooden's approval, I cast Donald Monat immediately as Steed, after Rex Garner was either unavailable or disinterested," Jay recalls today. Rex Garner, now nearing his eighties, has become something of a national treasure in South Africa, due to his tireless work in theatre there over five decades. While originally favouring Garner for the central role, Jay rightly acknowledges the peerless contribution of the performers that he subsequently cast - "Donald Monat did very well as Steed, as did Diane Appleby as Emma Peel."

While Donald Monat happily stepped into the handmade designer shoes of John Steed, Rex Garner demonstrated that his rejection of the role was not motivated by any dislike for the series. He would go on to appear alongside Donald Monat and Diane Appleby in The Avengers in supporting roles on an occasional basis.

by Alan Hayes with Donald Monat and Tony Jay

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