There were two buildings used for, amongst other purposes, theatrical productions and which were known as the Commercial Hall.
The Commercial Hall, Grahamstown
Used by the Graham's Town Theatrical Amateur Company as a base between 1837 – 1848. Frederick Timpson l'Ons, a well-known artist, designed and painted scenery for the company's productions in the venue. Kaatjie Kekkelbek (Bain and Rex) was first presented there in 1838.
The Commercial Hall, Port Elizabeth
In July 1843, the foundation stone for the Commercial Hall in Port Elizabeth was designed by CC Mitchell, and built on land in Main Street which was granted by Sir George Napier. The first public theatrical performances presented by the Port Elizabeth Dramatic Society were in the hall. The building, which served all public purposes until the Court House burnt down in 1856, was demolished in order to build the Main Library, circa 1898.
On May 12, 1847, a concert was staged by nine women and 13 gentlemen at the Commercial Hall to raise money for Highlanders who were suffering as a result of the famine in Ireland and Scotland. £50 was raised.
September 22, 1847: The first performance by the Port Elizabeth Amateur Theatrical Society in the Commercial Hall. The tragedy play Ion by Sergeant Talford was staged as well as a performance of The Queer Subject ("queer" as in "shady"). The Queer Subject was a one act farce written by J S Coyne and was performed for the first time at the Royal Adelphi Theatre, London, in November 1835. Characters in the production included Dr Bingo, Charles, Bill Mattock, Ned Snatch, Sammy Spectre, Tom Darking, countrymen, and Julia.
Margaret Harradine. 1995. Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the End of 1945. Port Elizabeth: E.H. Walton Packaging (Pty) Ltd.
The Eastern Province Herald, May 12, 1847.
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