A Conversation with Delia Sainsbury, Jo Galloway and Genna Galloway

Last year we sat down with Genna Galloway to chat about her career and her performance in Hedwig, a role for which she won her first Fleur du Cap Award. Very quickly after our discussion, the idea was conceived to sit down with the self-proclaimed “Galloway Girls” to chat about the ins and outs of growing up within the Galloway dynasty. We finally had the opportunity to sit down with Genna, her sister, Jo Galloway and the matriarch of the Galloway clan, Delia Sainsbury. While they are all exceptional performers and artists in their own regard, it’s the unbreakable unity of these three women that truly sets them apart and has established them as a force to be reckoned with.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?

Delia Sainsbury: I wasn’t inspired. I was sent along to ballet classes when I was five, having won a baby kind of beauty contest in England where one of the judges was a ballet dancer and said to my mother, “I think your daughter should dance because she has wonderful stage presence.” So my mother dutifully sent me off to ballet classes where I spent the rest of my life with my feet strapped into pointe shoes and my boobs strapped into a tutu. I was not inspired, I was pushed.

Jo Galloway: I also didn’t have that much of a choice. I obviously grew up with my mom and dad, who were in the performing arts and I started dancing at the age of three. It was just something that I fell in love with but then my parents were also very much about, “If you want to go do something else, we’ll support you no matter what.” But it’s a drug. Once it’s in you, you can’t get rid of it. It wasn’t just a drug, it was in my blood so I had both. I think that both my parents, but my father [and] his drama and his improv classes, which scared me so much, also inspired me so much. It was my parents who inspired me completely.

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Photo credit: Candice van Litsenborgh

Was there a moment where Genna and Jo came to you and told you that they were going to enter into the industry? Was this something you encouraged?

Delia Sainsbury: In all honesty, that did not happen. It was an organic situation where they were going into matric and they were already very high with their examinations with dance and drama. First Jo and then Genna said, “We want to finish off what we’ve started.”

Jo Galloway: Well…that’s kind of true. What happened really was that I stopped dancing in Standard 9 because I was pushing for prefect. Genna actually managed to do it. I kind of dropped the ball halfway through. I stopped dancing in Standard 9 and I only came back at the end of matric. I didn’t dance for my final two years and then I didn’t want to do my associate’s because I got into Cats and my mom said, “You can do Cats but you have to come back and finish your associate’s.”

Delia Sainsbury: That was the proviso because Jo got offered to go into Cats when she was only 19 and she hadn’t finished her training at all and I said, “Well ok but…”

Jo Galloway: First you said no.

Delia Sainsbury: I said no several times. And then I said to Jo, “Alright. You can go and do Cats on the proviso that you finish your teaching qualifications.” Which I never thought she would but she did.

Jo Galloway: In six months!

Delia Sainsbury: Genna was the same because you stopped also…

Genna Galloway: In Standard 9.

Delia Sainsbury: This one came top in matric.

Jo Galloway: And she got a scholarship to…

Delia Sainsbury: Everywhere.

Jo Galloway:..Rhodes.

Delia Sainsbury: I think in your case it was more a question of, “Let’s finish it off and see where I go.” We finished it off and then it was like, “Let me go into the industry for a year and see if I can make it.” You went straight up to Joburg and got the lead in Beatrix Potter.

Jo Galloway: This is the greatest story in the world!

Genna Galloway: Is it? Is it the greatest story in the world?

Jo Galloway: It is!

Genna Galloway: The story that Jo is trying to make me tell…when I started, I was incredibly terrified to sing.

Jo Galloway: Says the Fleur du Cap winner.

Genna Galloway: I got this role in Beatrix Potter and I had two songs to sing and I was just terrible.

Delia Sainsbury: You were not terrible!

Genna Galloway: I was. And I said to my sister, “Listen, when you come and watch it, just be aware that there will be at least one child, somewhere, with its fingers in its ears.” I start singing the opening number and this little boy in the front row…

Jo Galloway: …turned around with his back to the stage, faces the audience and sticks his fingers in his ears.

Genna Galloway: At which point, obviously she collapses [laughing]. It’s the smallest auditorium in the world. So you see, there is always room to grow. You can always start at the bottom.

Delia Sainsbury: Let’s face it, her career could only go up from there.

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Delia Sainsbury. Photo credit: Candice van Litsenborgh

Delia, you performed in nine West End shows. Do you remember your debut?

Delia Sainsbury: Oh yes, Camelot at Drury Lane and I fell over.

Jo Galloway: You fell over?

Genna Galloway: I don’t know this story!

Delia Sainsbury: I caught my foot in my costume in the middle of a classical ballet and I fell over. My parents were in the audience. Everyone that my mother could drag to the theatre was in the audience and every time I tried to stand up, I put my foot on the costume again and fell over. Drury Lane seats 2,000 people and the whole auditorium was in hysterics and it was my debut. I was 17 years old and I made an absolute asshole of myself.

Genna Galloway: See, you can only go up from there!

Delia Sainsbury: I remember my debut very clearly and my television debut, I did the same thing.

Genna Galloway: What?

Delia Sainsbury: I fell off the rostrum on live TV. I was standing on top of a rostrum, doing this dance number in high heels and as I stepped backwards, I misjudged and I fell off the rostrum on live TV and the camera was on me and suddenly I wasn’t there. My parents had been sitting there, watching television with everybody all lined up and they went, “Delia is on the…” I had very inauspicious debuts.

Then, eventually you met Keith [Galloway], you moved here, and you decided to open up a school

Genna Galloway: Well, they were about to be deported.

Delia Sainsbury: I’m going to correct that statement. We did not decide to open a school.

Genna Galloway: They were forced.

Delia Sainsbury: What happened was that the woman who was supposed to organize our permanent resident papers hadn’t done it. So they gave us 10 days to leave the country. We went to Pretoria and my husband had this inspiration to take our teaching qualifications with him. We went there and we said, “We’ve come here to stay in South Africa.” And they said, “You have 10 days to leave the republic.” My husband said, “Well, we’ve actually come here to open a school.” I’m looking at him thinking, “You’re crackers.” They looked at our teaching qualifications and went, “Alright, as long as you open a school in six months.” And I said to Keith, “What have you done? I don’t really want to teach.” And he said, “Neither do I. Let’s just teach a couple of people to keep the government happy.” It just literally exploded. I think because primarily in Keith’s case more than mine, he had done 19 West End shows. When we started to teach, they saw this Broadway and West End aspect coming to South Africa which in those days was completely new. These were the days of Apartheid and no international shows were coming. Here were these two people from the West End, bringing West End work to South Africa. What started off as a school that was meant to be fairly low profile, shot into the stratosphere very quickly because it was something that no one else, at that time, could offer.

Jo Galloway: But it was also because you were on TV though.

Delia Sainsbury: I was very fortunate, I got my first TV show five weeks after being in this country. There was only one TV station so it was like being the Elizabeth Taylor of South Africa.

Jo Galloway: I remember that growing up we couldn’t go anywhere. We would go into a shopping centre and we would be mobbed. Eventually my dad would walk away with both of us and we were like, “Mom!”

Delia Sainsbury: I remember when Jo was 13, we got stopped somewhere in a market and someone said, “Oh, you are Delia Sainsbury’s daughter!” And she went, “I am not! I am Jo Galloway.” I think she got totally fed up that her mother was on TV.

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Photo credit: Candice van Litsenborgh

Touching on that, growing up with the parents that you had, did you feel like you needed to work much harder to prove yourself?

Jo Galloway: How much time have we got?

Genna Galloway: How much are we going to divulge?

Delia Sainsbury: Yes, they did. It was a lot of pressure.

Jo Galloway: I do recall incidents throughout my whole life, it’s been questioned have I got where I got because of my mom? Is it because of my own merit or is it because of my family? As much as my mom and my dad could potentially make a phone call, I’m the one who has to walk through the door. I’m the one who has to bring the goods and I’m the one who has to have the discipline to do eight shows a week and have the professionalism that goes with it. That comes from my training. Regardless of my family, if I didn’t have any of that behind me, my career wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. I have a saying that I live by now which is, “Don’t judge my book by the chapter you walked in on.” No one knows the struggle or the journey. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and they will look at stuff and they will make up their own minds but I don’t apologize for being a Galloway for a second. I am very proud to have trained here and have my family’s name.

Delia Sainsbury: But I think in all honesty, it was much harder because every time they went to an audition, there was an expectation that wouldn’t have been on somebody else. When your parents are in show business, and at that time, especially when they would go for auditions, because the profile was still very high, there was a big expectation of, “Oh it’s Jo Galloway. Oh it’s Genna Galloway, let’s see what they can do.” That is so nerve-wracking.

Jo Galloway: Even getting a lead in a show in High School it was like, “Oh well you only got that because of your mother.”

Delia Sainsbury: Keith and I were very deliberate to not have any influence…

Genna Galloway: Well, as much as people thought they did, they didn’t. Ultimately, yes they in their capacity ran the college but the producers don’t give two stuffs who they are.

Delia Sainsbury: When you are auditioning with 300 people, they aren’t going to say, “Oh let’s use Genna Galloway because she is Keith and Delia’s daughter.” She has got to get cut down and cut down right ‘til the end.

Genna Galloway: So yes, it’s been hard.

Delia Sainsbury: It’s such a long answer to a short question.

Jo Galloway: It’s a complex question. For me, living in the States, as much as I’ve been blessed in certain ways, my mom has no influence on America. There is nothing she can do to help me there. I’ve got to do that by myself. You want to do things by yourself. It almost makes you want to do things on your own terms.

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Jo Galloway. Photo credit: Candice van Litsenborgh

Jo, how has the journey of living in Los Angeles been for you?

Jo Galloway: It is such an interesting question because I have 1,500 adjectives that come together and they all juxtapose each other so much. It’s been phenomenal, amazing, desperate, lonely, exciting, reinventing, challenging… everything you can think of because it is such a rollercoaster. I moved, of course, for the work but I also moved because I needed somewhere to reinvent myself a little bit. When I first got there, it was a baptism of fire because I thought, “I’ve got this.” I was so disillusioned by everything. I think you can see it in two ways, it is either a city that is hard, it’s a slog, everyone is fighting, it’s an oversaturated industry, everyone is trying to claw their way through and play the game and all of that stuff, which is a part of it but you can also see it as a place where you are immersed in your art 24/7. There are opportunities to create stuff. Everyone is in the industry so you can get a group of people together and shoot and create and go to a class or work on a scene. It can be a city of idealistic dreamers which can be beautiful.

Delia Sainsbury: I also think that it’s only a city for proactive people. If you are going to go to New York or London or LA and you are going to sit there and you are going to wait for somebody to give you a job or wait for the phone to ring, then you are going to fail dismally. I think the reason why Jo has got to where she is, and we are immensely proud of where she is, [is because] she had the guts, hard work and determination in saying, “I am not giving up. I am not going home.” It’s a question of just hanging in but most people don’t. 90% of people give up. It’s so hard.

Jo Galloway: They say it takes five years to settle and it has. Now, I can honestly say that LA is home. My company is starting to take off which I’m really excited about. I’ve found my little group of friends, I’ve got an amazing man who is back there waiting for me. Everything is moving beautifully and turning as it should but there are still days where I go, “You can’t stay here.” Because I leave and then they start auditioning for Black Sails and Homeland over here and I’m like, “Really? Thanks a lot South Africa!” I love being there.

I’d love to hear more about your production company, ShoWorks Entertainment. How did it start?

Jo Galloway: ShoWorks started because Darren Portilla, my business partner, and I met on set. We were talking one day and basically decided that we didn’t want to sit at home and wait for the phone to ring. We needed to start creating. The motto of our company is: Don’t wait. Create. We were working on a lot of Disney and Nickelodeon shows, multi-camera shows. We were watching some of the kids and they are all great actors and lovely but they didn’t have the understanding of the technical terminology that was used on a set. We kind of saw this and realized it was wasting time and if they had training before they came in, then that would save everyone a lot of time and energy and make the kids feel comfortable on film. Because I am a qualified teacher, we devised a syllabus that we could teach all these things in a fun and exciting way. Once you have the skill set of how to work on a multi-camera film set, that takes you all the way through your career. Multi-cam is an incredible tool to have in your acting toolbox. We started with that. Then, because it was only a weekend workshop, we realized we needed to get a steady flow of interest. I took on my dad’s show The Fabulous Fables of Aesop and redid it to build interest for the workshops. Our company started becoming an educational entertainment company. Then we realized, “We love theatre.” Shocking. What a surprise! That’s my first love. We ended up entering two shows into the Fringe Festival which we were nominated for. From there, other people started coming to us and asking us if we would produce for them. We produced two more shows before the end of the year and they did very well. In between that we wrote, directed, produced and cast four short films. It’s become creating from the ground up and creating opportunities for other actors. I don’t know if we are just fools or whatever we are but we just want people to perform and have an amazing journey and we want to be there to support.

Delia Sainsbury: It’s a very insular town where no one helps anyone. I think that goes back to my previous comment of it not being a city for the faint hearted. You’ve got to be entrepreneurial. You’ve got to hang in and you’ve got to be creative.

Jo Galloway: You also can’t let it take away your generosity of spirit. When people say, “What do you do?” I say, “I’m an artist” because I do a myriad of things but what is important to me is supporting each other. I do not understand actors who want to tear each other down. For the benefit of our industry, we have got to support each other across the board. That’s what we should be doing for each other. If we just work together as an artistic community, it would be so much easier for everyone and the standard would be so much better. There is a school in Hout Bay that is run by Kim Worrall called Amoyo. It is completely non-profit. I went to go see some of their stuff and these kids! You look at that and you realize why we do what we do. It’s pure unadulterated passion.

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L-R: Genna Galloway, Delia Sainsbury and Jo Galloway. Photo credit: Candice van Litsenborgh

All three of you have gone into teaching. What is it that you like about it? Why continue to teach?

Delia Sainsbury: It’s a passion…

Genna Galloway: It’s so fulfilling.

Jo Galloway: It’s so rewarding.

Delia Sainsbury: It beats performing.

Genna Galloway and Jo Galloway: Well…

Genna Galloway: It’s different. It’s such an amazing thing to see the future. It becomes almost addictive to see people who couldn’t do something before and then watching them grow and improve. It gives you a buzz to watch that happen. My mom always said, “Teachers are born.” To see people succeed and do well and to grow and the joy that they get from doing well and succeeding, when they accomplish something and they hit the right note or they get a tap step right or they can suddenly do a triple pirouette and you go, “You see!” That gives you, as a teacher, such a rush to see that. I think especially as you get older, and I’ve been given such amazing opportunities and been so lucky in my career, that I think you almost owe it to the up and coming generation to give them the knowledge that you have gained. To almost mentor these kids because it’s scary and precarious and wonderful and exciting but it’s tough. Maybe it’s a selfish thing as well but it makes me feel good because they are doing well.

Jo Galloway: We are starting ShoWorks Management next year because we have artists that we’ve employed who are not getting in the room. For some reason I am better at selling other people than I am at selling myself. I don’t know how that’s happened but it’s happened. It’s that whole thing of, we want other people to do well. Genuinely and honestly, we want other people to succeed and whatever we can do to make that happen, that is what our calling is. We’ve fallen into the teaching roles because of that.

Delia Sainsbury: There were 22 graduates standing on stage at graduation last year and every one of them had gotten work before they left. You can’t say that about university. I think that is because we, and Paul [Griffiths], my business partner, sit with everybody individually throughout their whole career journey in this school. By the time they leave, they know exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are and we are then able to recommend them to the right agent and they are on their way.  No one leaves here floundering. It is wonderful to see people leaving here and going into careers.

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Genna Galloway. Photo credit: Candice van Litsenborgh

What would you like the legacy of the Waterfront Theatre School to be?

Genna Galloway: Our motto is “Higher.” 

Delia Sainsbury: I truly believe that this particular college is utterly unique in this country and probably in the whole of Africa. My legacy, as I gradually pull back, I want that vision of higher to continue. It’s not just being higher in the profession, it’s about getting in touch with your higher self and being a better person and being able to feed that into our industry.

Genna Galloway: Essentially to create a place where people can feel creatively free to grow and learn and experiment…

Jo Galloway:…and make mistakes and fail and learn that they can get up again. They are cradled and supported from the moment they are walking in and for the rest of their careers. Once you are part of the alumni of The Waterfront Theatre School, it becomes your family and it becomes your support system.

Genna Galloway: It’s about support and love. It’s not about cutting you down and rejecting you or criticising you. I think you get enough of that when you leave.

Delia Sainsbury: But we also give them the tools to withstand that. We teach them the difference, hopefully, between criticism and critique. It’s always got to be about the work. It’s not about you. If someone is critiquing your work, they want you to be better. It’s about a director saying, “It’s not good enough. I need more.” And hopefully, they will understand the difference and keep striving to be better and not take the critique as being personal. Keith always used to say, “You’ve got to have a backbone of steel.” He said that to both of them and he said that to everyone.

Genna Galloway: “And don’t have your wishbone where your backbone is supposed to be.”

Delia Sainsbury: It’s to teach them to get out there, grow a pair and understand that it is going to be tough but there is always the support system there. Students who leave here don’t pay for their classes. Once they’ve gone, they can come back and do anything at the school and they don’t pay.

Jo Galloway: There are very few options for ongoing classes after you have graduated. The option is here if they want to use it. In LA, no one who is serious about what they do, is not in class. Everyone is in class learning and taking new courses working on their technique, keeping their dancing and acting skills up. You’ve got to hone. You’ve got to be audition fit. I’m spoiled for choice out there with classes. Here, you are not and if you’ve got a place that is offering it, by all means, get in and use it.

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L-R: Jo Galloway, Delia Sainsbury and Genna Galloway. Photo credit: Candice van Litsenborgh

Unfortunately we’ve come to our last question. Genna gave a wonderful answer to this question when we chatted last year but I’d like to ask you, Delia and Jo, who are some South African women in the arts that inspire you?

Jo Galloway: Obviously, I’ve got to put my mom on top of the list for a variety of reasons. Not only has she been my mother but she’s been my teacher and she’s been my conscience. She’s been my critic and my strength and my creator. They came to this country with nothing and they have built this school and this life. Genna and I have been very blessed to grow up with her as a mother but also as a teacher. Even as a teacher in life, I’ll still call her up and go, “I don’t know what to do. Please help me.” And she does. My mother is always right. Did I just say that? In the industry, the artists that I look up to, Kate Normington played my mother in Hairspray and I used to watch her all the time from the wings. She was hilarious. I love her and she’s brilliant. Robyn Scott, what an actress! What a talent! What a woman. She is amazing.

Delia Sainsbury: I know who I would say but she’s not in show business. A woman who inspires me is Denise Goldin.

Jo Galloway: What a strength!

Delia Sainsbury: She leads with a generosity of spirit. After what happened to her son, the bursary that she set up for young actors, she took something that was a complete tragedy and turned it into one of the most incredibly positive forces that this country has. I don’t think people realize what she does for people in and out of the industry. I think she is genuinely one of the most good people that I have ever come across. Paying it forward, like she does, for me, is truly inspirational.


For more information about The Waterfront Theatre School, please click here.

You can follow Jo’s company, ShoWorks Entertainment on Facebook, Instagram or via their official website.

To revist our conversation with Genna, please click here.

Special thanks to Candice van Litsenborgh and Hannah Baker.

All photo’s were taken by Candice van Litsenborgh on November 30th 2017 at The Waterfront Theatre School.

Sarafina Magazine and Candice van Litsenborgh maintain copyright over all images. For usage or inquiries, please contact us.

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