While we were rehearsing that production, I remember walking into the tenth floor rehearsal room in University Corner and seeing Terence sitting with his guitar, playing and singing Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet”. I was gobsmacked. I couldn’t believe someone I knew could play and sing like that. It just didn't seem possible. But once I got to know Terence I understood why. He practised. All the time. He was good, he wanted to get better, and he knew that the only way that would happen was if he played and played and played. And often, what he played was the music of Dire Straits. Of course, this was in the dark days towards the end of apartheid, and the cultural boycott was firmly in place: artists with a conscience wouldn’t have dreamed of coming to play in South Africa. It was pretty certain that unless he could afford to travel internationally (difficult and expensive), Terence would never get the chance to see the band he so admired play live.
Our paths continued to cross over the years: Terence built a very successful career in South Africa as an actor, voice artist and musician. I moved to London in 2000, and a few years later, heard that Terence was also in the UK, living in Canterbury. He started a band called Waterhorse, and whenever they gigged in London I tried to go. Like everything Terence did, their gigs were characterised by impeccable musicianship and utter professionalism. Then life overtook us and for a few years I didn't hear of or from him, except that he’d returned to South Africa. That was until a few months ago, when Terence’s astonishing news filtered through.
Let me ask you this: if, by some miracle, someone came to you today and offered you a chance to fulfil your dearest, long-held secret dream, what would you do? What would you do if they handed you your pointe shoes and ushered you into the wings at Sadler’s Wells? Or led you to the lane next to Usain Bolt in the Olympic Stadium? 99% of us would laugh nervously and back away. But Terence was ready. When Alan Clark, Dire Straits’ keyboardist, rang Terence in Johannesburg to say they’d heard his work with a Dire Straits tribute band and wanted to know if he would take over from Mark Knopfler for a comeback gig, Terence had what it took to say yes.
This was not luck. His decades of hard work closed the gap between an impossible dream, and walking onto the stage at The Royal Albert Hall last night. And I was thrilled to be there to see it. The gig was in aid of the Lord’s Taverners, a charity that offers support to young people facing big challenges. But as Alan Clark said last night, there can be few challenges bigger than stepping into Mark Knopfler’s shoes. I’m not going to rabbit on about the gig, about how Terence played and sang every song brilliantly enough to satisfy even the most die-hard Dire Straits fan, yet brought his own flavour to them. How he hit just the right tone between confidence and humility. How in the banging closing number Terence sang “We are the…” then cupped his hand behind his ear and 5,000 people roared “Sultans of Swing” back at him. Let me just say his feet were quite big enough for those shoes (and if you’ll forgive the crudity, he has some fearsome balls too!).
You may recall the story of the guy who saw an 18-year-old Lewis Hamilton go-karting, and placed £100 at 100/1 that he would be F1 Champion within ten years. Gambling was illegal in South Africa in 1986, but in my heart, I placed a bet like that on Terence. Twenty-five years later, on my feet and clapping so much my hands still hurt hours later, I feel like I hit the jackpot.