Labia Theatre

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The Labia Theatre is a venue in Cape Town, suitable for live theatre and cinema.

Referred to as the Labia-teater in Afrikaans and later also known as The Labia Cinema, it is most popularly known simply as "The Labia"

The theatre venue

Situated at 68 Orange Street in the Gardens, Cape Town, this was originally a ballroom, belonging to the Italian Embassy next door. The rebuilding was done as a collaborative venture by the Cape Town Repertory Theatre Society and the Kaapstadse Afrikaanse Toneelvereniging to be utilised for their activities and was funded by money donated by Count Natalia Labia and the Labia-family, as well as a grant from the Adult Education Division of the Department of Higher Education.

The Cape Town Reps broke their long standing bond with the Little Theatre, producing Farquhar’s The Beaux Strategem as final production at the Little Theatre(*?) in 1948 before moving to the new venue.

The theatre was officially opened on 16 May 1949 by Princess Ida Labia. Although it allowed both companies to raise the standard of their productions, it also imposed an additional financial burden on them, leading in large part to the disbandment of the Kaapstadse Afrikaanse Toneelvereniging (KAT) in 1962, and later leading the Reps to sell their share in it.

Also used by numerous other local amateur and professional companies from 1949 till 1980, including Robert Kirby (8 Birds, 1970),Black Beauty and the Boss and Snow White and the Special Branch (both by Pieter-Dirk Uys, 1976), .

The cinema complex

Used for occasional film festivals in the late 1970s, it was converted to a cinema on the alternative circuit In 1981 and, despite some hiccups, is still the oldest remaining independent art-repertory cinema in the country.

In 1989 the building was acquired by Ludi Kraus, ho continued to run it as a rather eccentric and very popular film complex.

In 2014 the theatre's old celluloid projectors were finally pensioned off, the last film being shown in this format being Belle (featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, daughter of actor Patrick Mbatha).

With the aid of a successful crowd funding drive by Kraus, the venue shifted to digital projection and so the history continues.

Sources

Wikipedia [1]

P.J. Du Toit, 1988;

Donald Inskip 1977;

Percy Tucker, 1997

Kyra Tarr. 2020. "Die Labia-teater, Kaapstad" in Weg! No. 185, March: pp. 128-9.

[JH, FdV, SH]

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