President Theatre

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The President Theatre was one of several names given to a venue situated on the western side of Church Square, Pretoria, right next to the Nederlandsche Bank.

Reck's Lokal and/or the Alhambra Hall, Pretoria (1889?-1903)

In the late 1880s (?) Reck's Lokal, a the tavern of (Friederick?) Karl Reck's South African Hotel and Tavern on the western side of Church Square was converted to a theatre with room for an audience of 350 and “well adapted for dramatic entertainment, concerts and balls”. The tavern had been the place where the original Geselliger Verein von Deutschen in Pretoria was founded. This later became the Deutscher Verein.

Binge (1969) claims that the converted venue was initially called The Alhambra Theatre. The names The Alhambra or The Alhambra Hall also occur.

The President Theatre, Pretoria

At some stage Reck renamed The Alhambra, calling it the President Theatre (referred as the President Teater to in Afrikaans, and also found as the President's Theatre).

For a while this was the only theatre venue in the city, and operas and operettas were produced there by companies like the Verdi Opera Company, which ran for packed seasons of six months.

The Dutch amateur group Oefening Baart Kunst ("Practice produces Art") and the Rederykerskamer Onze Taal ("Our language", led by Dirk Balfoort) also used the theatre for their productions, between 1891-1899.

The Empress Theatre, Pretoria

In 1903 part of the hotel made way for the Nederlandsche Bank, while owner Reck added a skating rink to his entertainment complex and renamed the theatre the Empress Theatre (also found: the Empress's Theatre). On Friederick Reck's death his son, Marcus Karl Reck took over the management of the hotel and theatre complex.

It was used by groups such as Onze Taal (1904-1908) Among the works put

His Majesty's Theatre, Pretoria

Some time after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the theatre was again renamed, now becoming His Majesty's Theatre for a while.

The Capitol Theatre, Pretoria

In 1918, on the death of Karl Reck, His Majesty's Theatre became the property of African Consolidated Theatres, who converted it into a new venue , an ornate "atmospheric" theatre built in 1931 on north western corner of Church Square, on the same site.

See the Capitol Theatre


This entry is based in part on the invaluable reminiscences of Mrs Iris Reck, daughter-in-law of Karl Reck – 15/4/2001, and the documents she sent to the Centre for Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Stellenbosch.

Other sources:

Ludwig Wilhelm Berthold Binge. 1969. Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse toneel (1832-1950). Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.

D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.

See also: the Capitol Theatre, Pretoria

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