Brooke Theatre

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Also known as the Brian Brooke Theatre – 1955-1981)

Founded/built byBrian Brooke in 1955 in De Villiers Street, Johannesburg, when he moved to the north, as a venue to put on his productions of British comedy and musicals. Opened with a production of The Deep Blue Sea (1955) and followed this with over 300 plays by the Brian Brooke Company in South Africa, touring many of them. (See the Brian Brooke Company). It was also used for other commercial companies to do musicals (e.g. Oliver! in 1962, Auntie Mame in 1965), and sometimes controversial productions such as Athol Fugard’s No-Good Friday (the first tryout before a white urban audience in 1958, playing for four days) and Ipi Thombi (opening in 1974). The theatre was demolished in 1981.

(See also Brian Brooke in Section 2 and the the Brian Brooke Company above) (See: Brooke, 1978; De Beer, 1995; Kruger, 1999; Tucker, 1997) [TH]

Brooke Theatre: Brian Brooke’s theatre in De Villiers Street, opened its doors on the 13th September 1955. The Apostolic Faith Mission was converted by the architect Felix Fels. The opening night show was Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Michael Finlayson and starring Petrina Fry as Hester Collyer. Finlayson also directed two Broadway hits, The Seven-Year Itch and Teahouse of the August Moon for the Brooke, both starring Heather Lloyd-Jones. Robert Langford was Brian’s production manager, and Connie Rainsford regulated the Brooke’s box office. Michael Finlayson directed the last two shows of 1956 for Brian, The Reluctant Debutante, which saw Joan Blake in her first appearance for the Brooke Company; and the review cum musical Salad Days. Brian also brought Emlyn Williams back in December 1956 with Dylan Thomas: A Boy Growing Up. Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend was staged here, and directed by Wilson himself in May 1957. It starred Shirley Hepburn, June Hern, Ivan Berold, Maureen Adair and Bruce Anderson with sets and costumes by Pamela Lewis and Heather MacDonald Rouse, and piano played by Gertrude Walsh, who also conducted. English actress Dulcie Gray starred in Noël Coward’s South Sea Bubble, which was staged at the Brooke in 1957. The comedy Janus was staged at the Brooke Theatre in 1958. Brian Brooke directed, and Anthony Farmer designed the sets for this play which starred Margaret Inglis and Gordon Mulholland. Brian Brooke had a hit with the British musical Grab Me a Gondola which was staged here in 1958. It co-starred Joan Blake and Sergio Galli. No-Good Friday, Athol Fugard’s first play was brought to the Brooke Theatre for a ‘whites only run after their initial run at the Bantu Men’s Social Centre in conjunction with the Union of Southern African Artists. Fugard himself appeared in the play, together with his black cast – Bloke Modisane, Dan Poho, Steve Moloi, Ken Gampu, Gladys Sibisa and Zakes Mokae in 1958. Leon Gluckman and John McKelvey starred in Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s prizewinning play Inherit the Wind, which was staged at the Brooke in 1959 by Leonard Schach’s Cockpit Players. The Grass is Greener was staged here in 1959 with British actor Ian Hunter guest-starring opposite Margaret Inglis. Peter Shaffer’s Five Finger Exercise was staged here in 1959, guest-starring Emlyn Williams’ son, Brook. Heather Lloyd-Jones enjoyed a trio of hits at the Brooke in 1959 – the comedies Champagne Complex and The Moon is Blue, and the comedy-drama Two for the Seesaw. They staged the hit musical comedy Irma la Douce in 1960 with choreography by Frank Staff, starring Heather Lloyd Jones, Siegfried Mynhardt, John Whiteley and Robert Haber. It toured all the major cities and the Rhodesias. Ralph Trewhela wrote the indigenous musical Eldorado, set in early gold-rush Johannesburg which played at the Brooke in 1960. 1960 ended with Brian’s revival of the farce, Charley’s Aunt, with Stuart Brown in the title role and Lorna Cowell. Bertha Egnos directed an all-black musical, Dingaka, at the Brooke in 1961. It was subsequently filmed by Jamie Uys. Lionel Bart’s hit West End musical Oliver! which was an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist opened here in February 1962, starring Arne Gordon, Ivor van Rensburg, Judy Layne and Howard Sacks. Roy Quinn (replaced on tour by Jeremy Fogg) played Oliver. Hugh Williams's The Irregular Verb to Love played here in 1962, starring Williams himself. Brian staged the commercial hit The Sound of Music, starring Heather Lloyd-Jones at the Brooke in 1963. He also staged Mary, Mary, starring Lloyd-Jones in 1964. British comedian Vic Oliver appeared in a play called Distinguished Gathering at the Brooke in 1964. On closing night, he died of a coronary thrombosis after the first act. The company manager was Jack Payne. Brian Brooke staged Frank Loesser’s hit Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying here in 1965. Taubie Kushlick directed Auntie Mame at the Brooke in 1965. It was adapted by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee from Patrick Dennis’ autobiographical book. Adam Leslie did costumes for this play which starred Shirley Hepburn in the title role. François Swart directed the Restoration comedy classic The Beaux Stratagem and Truida Louw directed N.P. Van Wyk Louw’s Die Pluimsaad Waai Ver at the Brooke in 1966 for PACT. Among the local actors kept in steady employment by these PACT productions were Siegfried Mynhardt, John Whiteley, Ronald Wallace, Arthur Hall, Kerry Jordan, Maureen McAllister and Shirley Firth. The comedy Baby Talk was staged here over Christmas 1966. Brian got the rights to Terence Frisby’s There’s a Girl in My Soup which was staged here in 1967. It was directed by Petrina Fry and starred John Hayter and Melody O’Brian. They also presented Neil Simon’s classic, The Odd Couple, starring Anthony James and Brian Brooke in 1967. Pieter Toerien and Basil Rubin presented Aleksei Arbuzov’s The Promise, starring English actor Andrew Ray, John Fraser and British actress Olive McFarland [1] here in 1967. It was directed by Leonard Schach. Toerien-Rubin also staged the revue Maggie and Frank, starring Maggie Soboil and Frank Lazarus, at the Brooke in 1967. The Academy leased the Brooke in 1969 to stage The Boy Friend with Jo-Ann Pezarro and Richard Loring. Margaret Inglis starred in Roar Like a Dove, directed by Petrina Fry, in 1969. Petrina and Brian Brooke starred in Harvey, directed by Rex Garner at the Brooke later that same year. Taubie Kushlick directed Cabaret at the Brooke in 1969. Anthony Farmer did set design, Bonnie Walker choreography and the show starred Amanda Barrie. R.F. Delderfield’s Worm’s Eye View was staged here circa 1970. Langford-Inglis, Udwin and Brooke presented The Au Pair Man, starring John Whiteley and Inglis at the Brooke in 1971. Patrick Mynhardt’s A Sip of Jerepigo played here in February 1972. Brian and James White appeared in Kauffman and Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You, directed by John Hussey, and Hussey’s production of A Man and His Wife starring Stuart Brown was staged here in 1972. Rex Garner directed John Hayter, Peter Elliot and Ian Drummond in The Brass Hat for the Academy at the Brooke in 1972. The Academy staged Funzapoppin’ here in 1973. Brian directed Any Wednesday with Helen Cotterill, Victor Melleney and Vivienne Drummond for the Brooke in 1973. Bertha Egnos wrote and directed Ipi-Tombi which opened at the Brooke on 25 March 1974 after a run in Perth. It ran for two years. The Lindbergs staged their production of the musical The Black Mikado here in July 1976. The musical revue Cole, based on the life of Cole Porter was a co-production between Hymie Udwin and Sir Bernard Miles and presented by the Academy at the Brooke in November 1976. Lulu Wena by Bertha Egnos and Gail Lakier was staged here in 1977. They presented Home at Seven with Brian Brooke and Vivienne Drummond in 1977. Revivals of The Moon is Blue with Clive Scott and Elizabeth Rae and Irma la Douce with Jo-Ann Pezzarro was staged here in 1977. The African musical Mzumba was staged here in December 1977. Michael Howard formed a company to present The Cat and the Canary in 1978. The Brooke company staged Brian Brooke’s The Ageing Adolescent starring Clive Parnell in 1978 which proved to be Brian’s last production. Ipi-Tombi was also staged in 1978. Barney Simon directed Cincinatti – Scenes from City Life starring Vanessa Cooke, Marcel van Heerden, Danny Keogh, Lesley Nott, Barrie Shah, Thoko Ntshinga, Bo Petersen, Sam Williams and Robin Smith for The Company at the Brooke in1979. Toerien-Firth staged Hugh Leonard’s A Life directed by Godfrey Quigley and starring Quigley and Margaret Inglis here in 1980. Pyjama Tops starring Tobie Cronje was staged here in 1980. This proved to be the last production at this theatre and it was soon demolished. *** ( Brooke, 1978; De Beer, 1995; Kruger, 1999; Tucker, 1997) [TH] BROOKE THEATRE (****-*****) Johannesburg. Also Brooke Theatre Tavern. Managing Director Brian Brooke, company manager Shelagh Miller.(SACD 1973) (SACD 1974)

The theatre was demolished in 1981.


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