Breughel Theatre

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Die Breughel Teatergroep

Background and origins

This influential community theatre group had its origins in the multiracial community work done by the Belgian-born university drama lecturer Ben Dehaeck in Cloetesville, a so-called “coloured” area created outside Stellenbosch during the apartheid years. In 1979, after clashes with the University where he taught, he founded a multiracial experimental group to perform Hugo Claus’s Theseus at the Oude Libertas open-air theatre.

In the early 1980s De Haeck took over as part-time drama teacher of the Dramagroep ("Drama Group") of the Cloetesville Hoërskool ("Cloetesville High School") when the teacher and actor André Roothman turned professional, and promptly started doing puppetry and theatre, involving his students from the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department. (This was to remain a tradition even after he retired).


In 1983 they won what was to become the first of many awards at the annual Department of Culture’s theatre festival, with Tone Brulin’s Kontiki. In this year De Haeck named the group the Breughel Teatergroep after the Flemish painter. The group with DeHaeck as writer/director is known for its commedia dell’ arte style as seen in productions as Scapino (1987) and Die kneg van twee meesters (“The Servant of two masters” - 1988). Other memorable productions include the widely successful Lucy Strata (Based on Lusistrata -1987, (joint winners of the Kellerprinz-Drama festival in 1986 and the first production with black players to participate in the ATKV-competition, also played at the Grahamstown Festival in 1987); Asjas Passie (1988, Dario Fo’s Mistero Buffo, translated into Afrikaans by Herman Pretorius, (performed at the H.B. Thom Theatre, the Oude Libertas Theatre and the Baxter Theatre); Doringrosie (1989, also performed at the Nico Malan Theatre); Die Spel van Wit en Swart by Ben DeHaeck (1990 ATKV Kampustoneel, also toured Belgium in 1993.) Commedia Rituale by Ben DeHaeck (1991 ATKV Kampustoneel); Die Wraak van Ex-koningin Bobbit by Ben DeHaeck (1994); Bobaas van die Boendoe by Synge/Brink (1995 KKNK); Die Gangsters by Ben DeHaeck (1997, also toured Belgium). From 1985 to 1992 they did theatre-in-education programmes based on prescribed works for the Department of Education and Culture in the Western Cape. The Breughel is also closely associated with youth theatre and puppetry.

Over the years a the theatre group has remained a conduit to the profession for students and local amateurs and vast number of alumnae from the Breughel have entered the theatre industry and made names for themselves.

Die Breughel Teater/ The Breughel Theatre

In 1988, having obtained a plot of ground from the municipality in Noordend Street, Cloetesville, where they built and settled into a large multi-purpose theatre called Die Breughel Teater or The Breughel Theatre - also popularly known as Die Breughel. Most of their performances were rehearsed and performed there. This later also became a community centre for the community.

[Marie Kruger]

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