Hottentots Holland Dramatic Society

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The Hottentots Holland Dramatic Society (HHDS) is an amateur dramatic society based in Somerset West [1] near Cape Town. Most of their productions are staged in their own venue, The Playhouse Theatre [2].

Founding and early history

The first Operatic and Dramatic Society started performing in the Somerset West Courthouse over 120 years ago. However the Society as we know it was reconstructed after World War II in 1948 by Mrs. Cornish-Bowden.

At that time the venue was the Old Masonic Hall. It had a flat floor with a 10ft deep platform at one end. For a show, the hall was rented from Saturday through to the following Sunday. The first weekend was spent adding a 5ft. apron to the stage, creating a proscenium arch with material, dressing the set, and then final dress rehearsals were held prior to going on stage for four nights. The lighting box was a Heath Robinson affair which often glowed red hot. It was an exhausting week but lots of fun and some really good shows were staged.

When was the Masonic Hall was pulled down, the town hall was used. To survive it was decided that the Society should have a permanent home. Thanks to the efforts of Harold Wilson, Donald Munro and Claude Clegg, a loan was secured from the Municipality, a price negotiated, and we obtained the land and permission to build. Harry Hargreaves designed the theatre, and thanks to him we now have one of the best venues available on the peninsula. Companies & people were marvellous. We received all sorts of donations and lot of the building and other materials at real bargain prices.

On the 26th May 1973, The Playhouse opened. The original building consisted of a control room, auditorium, a small foyer on the west side, the stage and dressing room. Later the workshop was added and then finally the Green Room. All through this period some exciting theatre was produced and our reputation as one of the leading societies in the Peninsula was established.

It must be kept in mind that we are an Amateur Society. However we must never forget that the only real difference between Amateurs & Professionals is that we don’t get paid. A standard has been set by our predecessors which we must maintain & enhance. A few years back we were advised that it would be in our interests to pay off the loan and buy the land, which up to that point was rented. An appeal was made, and enough money raised to cover this debt.

Over the past 12 years, more improvements have been made including the tarring of the parking lot, the interior redecorated, new signage and a host of other small things.

The Society does not receive grants from anywhere and has to generate income from shows & hires to survive.

(Lindsay Small (Chairman), May 2014)

Aims and function

Current status

Impact on SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Sources

A brief summary of "Our History" by Lindsay Small (Chairman), May 2014.

The Playhouse Theatre website [3]

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