Alhambra Theatre

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The Alhambra can refer to many things, including cinema and theatre venues across the globe.

The name

The name Alhambra (Al-Ḥamrā in romanized Arabic, meaning "the red one"), derives from the name of the famous palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.[1] One of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture and one of the best-preserved palaces of the historic Islamic world, in addition to containing notable examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture.

The name Alhambra has been widely used for a variety of venues across across the world, also in South Africa.[2]

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Cinemas and theatre venues in South Africa

Besides being used as the name for restaurants and other kinds of venues, there have at least three famous cinema and/or theatre venues in the country known as The Alhambra. In all three cases the eventual theatre venue was originally constructed to serve as a cinema venue in the 1920s.

Cape Town

The Alhambra Cinema

Built in 1928 as a cinema for African Consolidated Theatres by Harry Stodel , designed by P. Rogers Cooke, with “atmospheric” interior by William Mitcheson Timlin, it has been described as South Africa's finest atmospheric style theatre. It boasted a sliding roof for hot nights, and engaged an orchestra conducted by Mr Regeluth for the silent films. Often referred to simply as The Alhambra, it opened its doors in 1929, and was for many years considered one of Cape Town's major cinemas.

The Alhambra Theatre

However, the Alhambra Cinema was also used to present stage shows for over four decades, and was often referred to as the Alhambra Theatre. It alia used as a Cape Town venue by African Consolidated Theatres, JODS, ACT, the EOAN Group.

staged Show Boat, starring New Zealand baritone Inia te Wiata, Ronnie Shelton, Marie Van Zyl, Olive King, Shirley Arden and the Eoan group (choir) here in 1964. Anthony Farmer directed and did the designed for the production . Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke co-devised The Minstrel Scandals for ACT, which opened at the Alhambra in Cape Town in 1966. Boris Cohen was the musical director, and performers included Aubrey Ellis, Lynton Burns, Olive King, Michael Fisher, Stephanie Shiller, Beryl Ellis, Jeanette James, Ronnie Grainge and Charles Stodel with Joan Brickhill playing the lead girl. *** (Tucker, 1997)

The first and only Afrikaans company to play there (according to André Huguenet) was his company with Is jy ‘n bokryer? in 194?. It was also used by NTO?* and CAPAB on occasion, for example for the opera The Bartered Bride (Smetana) in 1965.

End of the Alhambra in Cape Town

It was closed in January 1972, and sadly demolished in 1974. Today the site is occupied by Atterbury House. (See: Fletcher, 1994; Van Eeden in Hauptfleisch, 1985; Martin, 1995)


The Alhambra Cinema

the Alhambra Cinema (built 1922; purchased by ACT, 1927)

The Alhambra Theatre

Situated in Berea Road, it was an 800-seater, proscenium theatre constructed by African Consolidated Theatres on the site of the Alhambra Cinema (built 1922; purchased by ACT, 1927). Opened 31/12/1952 by John S. Schlesinger. Presented first-release films, imported productions and visits by NTO; from 1963 hired by NAPAC. In 1970 the leasehold was purchased by NAPAC for productions of opera, ballet, pantomime, musical comedy etc, until the move to The Natal Playhouse. NAPAC’s final season presented in October 1985. From 1986, the Alhambra housed the Durban Christian Centre. [Mervyn McMurtry] Alhambra: 1 100-seater in Durban where Leon Gluckman’s revue, Wait a Minim! was staged in 1962 with musicians Andrew and Paul Tracey, Kendrew Lascelles and Jeremy Taylor. Anthony Farmer was the set designer. They toured the country for eleven months. Graham Wright brought the Baxter production of Steven Berkoff’s Decadence starring Bo Petersen and John Maytham (replacing Fiona Ramsay and Henry Goodman who had played the roles in Cape Town) with direction by Ron Smerczak here in 1984. Geoffrey Sutherland’s production of Peer Gynt was staged here for NAPAC in October 1985 *** (Tucker, 1997)


The Alhambra cinema

Built in 19**

The Alhambra Theatre

The disused cinema in Doornfontein was renovated into a permanent home for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society's musicals. JODS now owned this theatre and opened it on 17 April 1977 with ANight to Remember, directed by Anthony Farmer. JODS staged New Faces of 1978, directed by Anthony Farmer with choreography by Wendy de la Harpe here in 1978. They also staged an unsuccessful production of George and Ira Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, directed by Taubie Kushlick and starring Ben Masinga and Betty Mthombeni here in November 1978. It re-opened, just to close again by the end of January 1979 and so saw the end of sixty years of JODS productions. Pieter Toerien purchased this theatre from JODS circa 1981. He staged Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus starring Richard Haines and Ralph Lawson and directed by Nikolas Simmonds here in 1981. Michael Atkinson replaced Haines in a subsequent extended season. Pieter Toerien staged Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest starring Yvonne Banning and Eckard Rabe in January 1982. Pieter then staged John Chapman and Dave Freeman’s Key for Two starring Rex Garner, Gordon Mulholland and Moira Lister here in 1982 before taking it to London. Nikolas Simmonds directed Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms starring Richard Haines in 1982. A.R.Gurney Jr’s The Dining Room starring Gordon Mulholland, Amanda Strydom, Ralph Lawson and Patricia Sanders with direction by Bobby Heaney was staged here in 1983. Pieter Toerien opened a new auditorium here in 1983 called the Leonard Rayne Theatre (see Leonard Rayne Theatre). Pieter Toerien presented Agnes of God starring Fiona Ramsay (later replaced by Sandra Duncan), Pauline Bailey and Lena Ferugia and directed by Nikolas Simmonds here in 1983. Pieter Toerien presented Ray Cooney’s Run for Your Wife starring Michael Richard and Rex Garner here in February 1984 after a run in Cape Town. Pieter Toerien brought Tom and Viv, directed by Ken Leach here in August 1986. Terrence Shank’s production of David Wiltse’s Doubles was staged here in December 1986. Simon Gray’s The Common Pursuit directed by Ken Leach was staged here in 1987. Peter Goldsmid directed Michael Voysey’s My Astonishing Self, Robert Whitehead directed Tom Stoppard’s Rough Crossings and Rex Garner directed Ray Cooney’s Wife Begins at Forty in 1987. Tobie Cronje directed Nunsense here in 1988. Pieter Toerien presented David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly here in October 1989. Pieter Toerien presented Move Over Mrs Markham here in 1990. Pieter Toerien renovated the Alhambra in 1991, adding on a third, hundred-seater, auditorium called the Richard Haines Theatre. Marc Urquhart’s production of A Slice of Saturday Night opened here on 29 September 1991 after it was rebuilt. Ray Cooney’s Out of Order was staged here in 1992. Pieter Toerien presented Michael Pertwee’s Birds of Paradise here in 1992. (or the Alhambra in Cape Town. See pg 508) Stephen Mallatrat’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black was staged here in December 1992. Rupert Gavin’s An Evening with Gary Lineker was staged here in 1993. Ray Cooney’s It Runs in the Family opened here on 7 November 1993. Pieter Toerien brought Nunsense here in 1994. *** (Tucker, 1997)


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