Good Hope Theatre
The Good Hope Theatre is one of a number of names used for what may have been three related theatrical venues in the Good Hope Lodge Gardens, Cape Town in the 19th and early 20th century. (Also referred to as the De Goede Hoop Gardens or Good Hope Gardens)
The history and relationship is not always clear from the sources
The Good Hope Masonic Lodge (1800-1875)
The original building
The Temple of the Lodge de Goede Hoop in Bouquet Street, Cape Town, was built in 1800 as a long and narrow building, ostensibly based on the exact dimensions of the inner sanctum of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, designed by Louis Thibault and built by Hermann Schutte, with original statues by Anton Anreith. The foundation stone was laid in February 1801 and the completed Temple was consecrated on Sunday 3 July 1803.
Today the courtyard is used as a parking area by Parliamentary staff during the day and by the Brethren in the evenings and over weekends.
The theatrical venue
The gardens were utilized as a popular venue for concerts. Musical concerts were held at the Good Hope Lodge Gardens (also referred to as De Goede Hoop Tuine in some sources), on Friday evenings during the summer and later in the 19th century it played an important part in theatrical activities as well, when the Lodge acquired its own Exhibition Hall in 1875.
The Good Hope Exhibition Hall and Theatre (1875-1892)
In 1875 the Good Hope Masonic Lodge acquired its own Exhibition Hall, a huge barn-like structure made from wood and corrugated iron, constructed in 1875 in the Good Hope Lodge Gardens on the site of the Goede Hoop Masonic Lodge.
Officially named the Good Hope Exhibition Hall and Theatre, it was referred to in theatrical circles and the public by many other names, including the Exhibition Hall, the Exhibition Theatre, the Good Hope Theatre, the Good Hope Hall or Goede Hoop Saal. The sources are unclear about the actual relationship between the "hall" and the "theatre" - whether there was an alternative, perhaps more intimate, theatrical space within the building, or whether the name simply reflected the range of uses for the hall.
Besides its role as a popular venue for public exhibitions, such as the South African International Exhibition held in Cape Town in 1877 (an event organised by a group of locals led by Signor Augusto Cagli of the Cagli Italian Opera Company), it was also used for public meetings, musical events of all kinds and, at times, the presentation of larger scale productions, such as opera and musical presentations. In the latter respect it is perhaps also best remembered for the Italian operas performed there by Cagli's opera company.
During the afternoon of 21 February 1892, carpenters and scenery painters were preparing for a new play when a fire broke out about 15h30, near the theatre entrance and the building was destroyed in its entirety, as were the adjoining Masonic Lodge and Native Affairs Office.
The Good Hope Theatre (1897?-1910?)
Though also referred to as The Good Hope Hall or Goede Hoop Saal, the Good Hope Theatre does not appear to be the same venue as the former building, but most probably a new and custom built structure, erected some time in the late 1800s, probably after the destruction of the Exhibition Hall in 1892.
Also referred to as the Good Hope Hall and Gardens, it was situated in Bouquet Street, erected on the site of the old House of Assembly. The architect was George Ransome, A.R.r.B.A. The venue had a seating capacity about 1,200 with a good stage at the end of the Hall, 50 x 36 feet, with scenery. There were also six dressing rooms for artists and in rear of the building a banqueting hall.
The Gardens attached to the Hall was a popular resort for Promenade Concerts and the Hall and the grounds are the property of the Lodge de Goede Hoop, the Masonic Temple being in close proximity.
The venue was extensively used by the Wheeler Company, which had great successes with its musical comedies there. One of earliest performances was Charley’s Aunt (Thomas) by the Hawtrey Comedy Company under Wheeler Company management.
Other companies also used it from time to time, for example Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst did a programme consisting of Adelaide van Beyeren and Goede Morgen Mijnheer Visser there in 1897; a visiting Gaiety Company presented musical works such as The Geisha (1896) and Kitty Grey (1901) there in 1902.
Though the theatre had lost its flair by 1906 and seems to have closed as a professional venue by the end of that year, it appears to have continued as an occasional amateur venue. For example by Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst did a production of Het Geheim there in 1910.
D. Edwards. 1897. The Cape Town Guide. Cape Town: Maskew Miller (Digitised 2011)
Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg: p. 117
P.W. Laidler. 1926. The Annals of the Cape Stage. Edinburgh: William Bryce: p. 89
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