Life celebrated by Gaynor Young

I was an actress.  

I was understudy for the female role of Guinevere in Camelot being performed at the State Theatre in Pretoria, and on the 9th December 1989 Kate Normington, the lead, fell ill. I was to take over at the afternoon and evening performance. I went on stage that afternoon never having had a dress rehearsal nor a technical rehearsal! But I knew that I would be fantastic in the role. And indeed I was FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC!!! Then the scene before interval, disaster struck! In the dark, I must have turned the wrong way or missed my footing during a scene change, who knows, because I fell off the stage 18 metres down an unguarded lift shaft.

I was in a deep coma for four weeks, a semi-coma for three. I had extensive brain damage, was totally deaf and was spastic down the whole of my right side. After two months I finally went home and my recuperation began. Four years later in April 1994 I opened in my one woman show  ‘My Plunge to Fame’. Audiences pronounced it an unqualified success.

Adrienne Sichel one of the most astute and toughest critics around, reviewed it: ‘Gaynor Young’s hour-long tete-a-tete with the audience which was greeted by an opening night standing ovation, is about rediscovering the rainbow. That might sound corny but it’s anything but. She confidently strides the stage, commanding the moment! The skilled performer takes over as she mimics her agent, sings a line from The Sound of Music, illustrates the return on a beach of her tactile memory… It is tempting to equate Gaynor Young with a latter day Helen Keller. ‘My Plunge to Fame’ is devoid of mawkish sentiment. It isn’t a litany of woes but an uplifting theatrical experience, a golden affirmation of life and faith. The individual and the artist’s triumph over adversity and tragedy is so moving and so real’.

I travelled throughout South Africa playing at the Civic Theatre in Gauteng, the Natal Playhouse and the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. I also performed in both Washington and London.

Ten years later, my second show Gaynor Rising opened at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. 

Once again I was given wonderful reviews. In 2000 my autobiography My Plunge to Fame was published to widespread popularity. The South African playwright, Athol Fugard wrote, ‘If you have lately been doubting the capacity of the human spirit to overcome calamitous misfortune, I urge you to read Gaynor Young’s story. It will restore your faith’.

In addition to my stage performances and writing, I also give inspirational speeches to blue chip companies throughout South Africa.

In 2007 I had a Cochlear Implant and on the 17th July I was ‘switched on’! I cannot describe to you the joy of once more being able to ‘hear’. The delight of being able to walk down a street and listen to the birds singing is something I never thought I would experience again. But experience it I have. Yes, I am still deaf and with my hearing appliance taken off I enter a silent world once more. But with it on, I am King of all I survey!

It is only when something has been taken away from one that one is aware of it’s true value. My inspirational speech involves my life before the accident and my life thereafter. I speak of what hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, means to me.

I speak of the joy of being alive!
Click here to read about the launch of my book!