When you hear the word ‘theatre’ in Cape Town, there’s a high chance it’s been preceded by the words ‘Fugard’, ‘Artscape’ or ‘Baxter’. And that’s understandable, given the quality of the shows put on at these playhouses. The only downside to this is that the Mother City’s smaller theatres aren’t afforded the exposure and acclaim they deserve. And they definitely do deserve it! From risqué one-hour pieces and innovative physical theatre, to outdoor revivals of classic dramatic works, the entertainment at these places is both varied and inspired. Here are seven of them to check out:
1 Alexander Theatre, CBD
The Alexander Theatre is by no means an unrecognised or unappreciated establishment. But the kinds of productions staged here might deter those serious or conservative theatregoers who prefer their ballet or their Shakespeare. The shows at here are usually original works lasting no longer than an hour. They are either solo pieces, or feature a very small cast. As for their content, it can often be bawdy going on lewd (We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants), zany going on completely bonkers (Dani and the Lion) or dark going on nightmarish (The Emissary). It is a hub of creativity that effectively showcases South Africa’s abundance of musical and theatrical talent.
2 Maynardville Open-Air Theatre, Wynberg
We’re cheating a bit here. The Maynardville Open-Air Theatre is part of the Artscape, and probably receives greater recognition than smaller Cape Town theatres as a result. That being said, it’s specific location makes it seem more suitable for a select range of productions. And that’s just what it offers. The theatre is most well-known as the venue for its annual Shakespeare-in-the-Park productions. Indeed, an outdoor venue can increase the atmosphere expected from a Shakespearean play staged at night. Those who saw Twelfth Night or Othello here might agree. But the theatre’s surrounds also have a rhythmic, romantic quality to them, which must be why it seemed the perfect place to stage the ballets La Sylphide and Night and Day.
3 The Magnet Theatre, Observatory
The Magnet Theatre is an award-winning independent physical theatre company that has been operating for 30 years. Their productions often engage with Southern Africa’s social and political landscapes, and they are responsible for over 30 original theatre pieces. The company has toured both locally and internationally, and last year five of its performers were invited to stage their play Ekhaya (Home) at the La Baracca Testoni Ragazzi Children’s Theatre Festival in Italy. The Magnet Theatre also runs various educational programmes aimed at transforming the lives of young performers and the theatre industry in general.
Where Unit 1, The Old Match Factory, Corner of St Michaels Road and Lower Main Road, Observatory
Contact +27 21 448 3436/+27 82 469 2560, [email protected], magnettheatre.co.za
4 Rosebank Theatre, Rosebank
The Rosebank Theatre is fairly new, but it’s steadily gained recognition as a venue which promotes the work of up-and-coming artists. It was opened in 2013 by acclaimed local theatre practitioner Nicholas Ellenbogen, with the support of writer Alexander McCall-Smith. The latter’s popular novel, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, was adapted into a musical for the Rosebank Theatre stage in 2015. Since then, and with only 50 seats available, it has maintained popularity with a fantastic collection of shows.
5 Oude Libertas Amphitheatre, Stellenbosch
Another outdoor performance venue, the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre immediately puts one in mind of the Ancient Greek theatrical experience. That being said, past shows here have ranged from the classical to the distinctly modern. Artists who who have performed at the amphitheatre include The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra; the Bovim Ballet Company; legendary Dutch entertainer Herman van Veen; Nataniël; instrumental group DNA Strings; and all-girl country trio BlackByrd. How’s that for variety?
6 Masque Theatre, Muizenberg
The Masque Theatre is a golden oldie. It opened as a multi-racial establishment in 1959 and has, in spite of a catastrophic fire 20 years ago, remained a firm favourite of many Capetonian drama enthusiasts. Notable shows have included a children’s production of C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, a heavily abridged adaptation of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and tribute to classic Broadway musicals. The Masque Theatre also hosts film screenings, seminars and presentations, and you’ll be able to catch some ballet, jazz and comedy within the next two weeks
7 Kalk Bay Theatre, Kalk Bay
Eat and be entertained at the Kalk Bay Theatre. At this wonderful little venue, you can dine on mouthwatering food while enjoying intimate performances by singers, musicians, dancers, comedians, cabaret acts and more. Booking in advance is not mandatory, but those guests planning to dine may reserve seats from 6.30 pm, while non-diners can only do so from 7.30 pm.