The beloved FollowSpot Theatre in Kalk Bay has sadly announced that it is closing. The bastion of dramatic arts in Cape Town has been buckling under the strain of ongoing building and staffing costs since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced it to close its doors, and has been struggling to keep it afloat.

FollowSpot Theatre found a home within the Kalk Bay Theatre, and now, this home is no more.

“We burned the midnight oil for weeks trying to come up with clever solutions, bearing in mind that there was little prospect of reopening before some time in 2021, but the brick wall in front of us was impenetrable. The devastating end result is that we had to terminate the lease with our landlord, and our running of the Kalk Bay Theatre and Restaurant,” the production company said in a statement. 

 

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Woman power. And they are smashing it.

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Vanessa Harris and her husband Ash left mainstream theatre in 2008 and went on to establish FollowSpot Theatre. The pair also took over the management of the Kalk Bay Theatre and Restaurant in 2014, and are heartbroken beyond measure at the closure.

“Every night added so abundantly to the memories. The best memories were watching the people have the time of their lives. Escapism at its best,” Vanessa said during an interview with Cape Town Etc. “There are so many [memories], I wouldn’t know where to start.”

 

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The final week has arrived. It will be our 14th week of Encore. And its time to end the rock festivities. Last show 1 Feb.

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The pair were hands on in the running of both FollowSpot and the Kalk Bay Theatre, and got to know many of the regular visitors on a personal level before the closure.

“I hope they remember the personal touch that we gave the theatre. The building is beautiful, but it was the hugs and the interaction that made the place,” Vanessa said. “Chester Williams was a regular. Now I’m crying again.”

She also advises individuals or companies in similar predicaments to remember the following words: “Don’t be the frog in boiling water. Jump out before its too late.”

 

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A little Rocky Horror in my life. Oh how I miss this show.

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According to Vanessa, 19 waiters have lost their jobs as a result of the closure.

“That’s excluding the performers, as well as Ash and myself,” she added. “Its tragic. But it has certainly made me well aware of all the things that make and break a business. At least we will be tougher business owners in the future.”

Those who were firm fans of FollowSpot Productions are reminded by Vanessa that “this is not the end of the book, just a closing of one chapter”. The couple has every intention of finding another space to call their own and entertain Cape Town’s theatre-lovers as soon as they are able to.
“In the meantime, keep well, and we love you all!” Vanessa said.
Vanessa was trained in Musical Theatre trained at The Waterfront Theatre School, and straight drama trained at The Cape Academy Of Dramatic Arts before performing both locally and internationally.
“Then I branched off on my own… Well Ash and I,” she said. “We created Followspot Productions and started directing and producing. Under the Followspot banner we have created over 20 shows. We have won ovation awards at the National Arts Festival and International awards at internal fringe festivals.”
The pair ran the Kalk Bay Theatre for six years and turned the business around from financial failure to roaring success. They also currently lecture at LAMTA and specialise in Musical Theatre Dance.
Picture: FollowSpot Entertainment/Instagram

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.