Cape Town Repertory Theatre Society

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Also known simply as the Cape Town Repertory Theatre or Cape Town Reps.


Founding

Founded in 1920 at the initiative of the Owl Club. As an implicit criticism of the then-current trend towards light theatre, this society set out to stage productions of plays of artistic and literary value. Its first chairman was Prof. T.P. Kemp and its first performance, on 6 August 1920 was of The Merchant of Venice. The production was critically very well-received, and even realised the then very respectable profit of £100, which placed the fledgling company on a solid financial footing. Kemp was later followed by the then registrar of the University of Cape Town, Wilfred Murray in the 1930s. He in turn was followed by long time chairman, Prof Donald Inskip.

Venues

Initially the Railways Institute hall was used, but after this was closed the company struggled to find another suitable venue.

In 1929 they presented a one-act play comptetition in Hiddingh Hall. Performances included a production of the winning play, O.H.M.S. by William James Makin.

With the opening of the University of Cape Town’s Little Theatre (of which Inskip was Director), they performed there. They were the first company which was not directly linked to UCT to stage a production there and from 1934 to 1948 this became their regular venue, until they moved into their own venue.

The Labia Theatre

The Labia Theatre was built in collaboration with the Kaapstadse Afrikaanse Toneelvereniging) in 1949.


Productions

During the 1930s and 40s, the company managed six productions per year, mostly of outstanding quality, and total of 50 productions in all between 1934 and 1948. As well as its amateur members, professional directors were also frequently employed, and included Ralph Kimpton, André van Gyseghem, Leontine Sagan, Basil Ashborne and Jack Bligh. The Society also managed to maintain a professional technical staff in collaboration with the Little Theatre. More than any other English society, the Cape Town REPS also encouraged is members to write original texts, running occasional playwriting competitions. (Winning plays include William Makin’s O.H.M.S. in 1929, *.) To maintain a regular audience, the company offered subscription membership on a two tickets-for-the price-of-one basis, and during the 1940s had about 200 such members.

Sources

Inskip, 197*; Du Toit, P.J., 1988 [JH, FdV, TH]

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