Vanessa Cooke


Vanessa is an award winning performer and workshop theatre practitioner. In 1971, she met the director Barney Simon at Dorkay House in Johannesburg. Together with him, Mannie Manim and a group of actors, formed the Company and founded the Market Theatre in 1976.

Vanessa has performed in over 50 plays and has won awards including Naledi Award Best Supporting Actress for Vigil in 2014 and also for How I Learnt to Drive in 1999, Laughing Wild in 1989, Private Lives in 1988 and Gertrude Stein and a Companion in 1986.

Vanessa is an exponent of Workshop Theatre and has been involved in the creation of South African plays such as Cincinatti – Scenes from City Life (1979), Born in the RSA (1985) and This is for Keeps (1986) which won a Vita Award for Best Production.

In the early 90s, Vanessa started working at the Market Theatre Laboratory, the training and development wing of the Market Theatre. She retired from the Lab in 2008.

In 1999, Vanessa won a Gauteng Arts & Culture & Heritage Award for Development Drama. Vanessa has performed in a number of films – most recently Ayanda and the Mechanic (2015) and has acted in TV series – most recently as Mama Ruth in Scandal.