When picturing Theatre on the Bay, a distinct identity springs to mind. It is a theatre of splendour with concrete drapery adorning the front entrance, larger than life statues beckoning you inside and vistas of the ocean and the 12 Apostles. It paints a glamorous scene, and is a culture hub for the dedicated theatregoer. And to think that 27 years ago, it stood as the dilapidated building of the old Phoenix Theatre, an eyesore to the residential area of Camps Bay.
Theatre on the Bay was the brainchild of South African theatre producer Pieter Toerien, who bought the property with the intention of turning it into a landmark for stage theatre. Though a few teething problems were encountered along the way – resistance from a surly neighbour and being left high and dry by a contract worker – the doors of Theatre on the Bay were opened to the public on a summery evening in 1988.
Opening night saw the hilarious musical comedy Nunsense, and 27 years on Theatre on the Bay continues to entertain audiences with its enthralling performances. From bonsai musicals to broadway hits and comedies, there are more than a few notable highlights to reflect upon.
Defending the Caveman is a perennial favourite, with Tim Plewman and later Alan Committie acting out the hilarious role of the beleaguered male. Mouse Trap, by the renowned Agatha Christie, is a classic murder mystery play known for its suspense and plot twists. A long-running West End production, the popular play was brought to Theatre on the Bay after much persuasion by Toerien.
The 25th birthday of Theatre on the Bay was celebrated with the staging of Sunset Boulevard, an award–winning musical about love, obsession and madness. Known for staging ‘bonsai musicals’, Toerien adapted the play to suit the diminutive size of Theatre on the Bay.
With entertainment at everyone’s fingertips with the click of a button these days, what makes theatre so unique? ‘There is a collective experience that can’t be gained from a night at the movies. Theatre allows the audience to let their imagination go and forget everything on the outside,’ says Toerien. He’s not wrong. A 250-seater venue, Theatre on the Bay provides an intimate theatre experience where performers can draw their audience into the production.
Pre–theatre dining at the SideDish Bistro is more than a forgettable overture to the main performance – it’s an experience in itself. Dining at the Bistro means fine wine, gourmet food and a view of the sun setting over the ocean, a production in its own right.
Where 1A Link Street, Camps Bay
Contact +27 21 438 3301, www.theatreonthebay.co.za,