John Matshikiza was in the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1979-1981. As well as his Shakespearean roles, the actor formed part of the original company of the RSC's blockbuster The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Matshikiza played in Nickleby throughout all three of the production's runs at the Aldwych Theatre. His two parts in Nickleby (Cobbey and Mr. Pyke) were dispersed to company members John McEnery and Mark Tandy, respectively. Matshikiza's contribution to the original Nicholas Nickleby production has been effectively erased from history, as he also did not take part in the Channel 4 recording of the production, which was broadcast in 1982 after the Broadway run.
Matshikiza's other classical roles include playing Mosca to Ken Morley's Volpone at the Half Moon Theatre, London from 15 April - 9 May 1987 (a version of this production had been performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1986).
John Matshikiza "was one of those polymaths who South Africa has an odd way of throwing up: film and stage actor, poet, journalist, broadcaster and political activist, he seemed equally comfortable in each of these roles" (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/sep/17/southafrica.pressandpublishing). Born in the Johannesburgh township of Sophiatown, he first came with his father and family to London in 1961 after a government crackdown that resulted in the banning of the African National Congress (his father was on tour with a production of King Kong for which he had written the music and some lyrics).
After a hiatus from London in Lusaka, Zambia, where Matshikiza's father became head of broadcasting services, John returned to train at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He subsequently worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Glasgow Citizens. In the early 1970s, Matshikiza helped to found the cultural arm of the African National Congress, Mayibuye. In the 1980s, Matshikiza appeared in high-profile film and television projects about South Africa including Cry Freedom and Mandela, in which he played Walter Sisulu. He also gained a reputation as a lyrical poet.
John Matshikiza returned to South Africa after a thirty year absence after Nelson Mandela had been released in 1990. Turning to journalism, he became a columnist for the Guardian and the Mail, presented a BBC programme and contributed to many other British and American publications. He won several prizes for his journalism.