Natal Playhouse

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A 5-venue complex in Smith Street, Durban, constructed for NAPAC in 1985 and presenting opera, ballet, musicals, Shakespeare, cabaret and experimental theatre.

From 1995, renamed The Playhouse.


Durban's Playhouse complex links the city's present with its past. The current theatre facade preserves two of the city's most famous landmarks, situated adjacent to each other in central Smith Street opposite the City Hall, first conceived as cinemas, namely the glamorous Prince's Cinema, which was opened on 26th July 1926 by African Theatres, and the grand, Tudor-styled Playhouse, which originally opened its doors to public fanfares and capacity house in 1935.

The Tudor-style Playhouse (1935-1986)

This was an internationally-known Tudor-style Playhouse in Durban designed by William Mitheson Timlin. Malcolm Woolfson (1986) states it was opened on 7th of June 1935 by African Consolidated Theatres.

It contained an "atmospheric" cinema (or bioscope), Palm Court, Tudor Room and Grill Room. The cinema was one of four such "atmospheric theatres" built by ACT in the country, and sported a starry dome and crennelated walls.

The Natal Playhouse (1986-1995)

The Playhouse is today the only preserved theatre of its kind in the country, for it was acquired by NAPAC in the early 1980s, and these two celebrated entertainment venues (The Prince's Cinema and the Tudor Playhouse) underwent expert renovation and conversion into a state-of-the-art, multi-venue theatre complex that faithfully preserved many of the buildings' original characteristics and archetectural features. The architect was Gordon Small. This was officially opened on 12 April 1986 by State President P. W. Botha in 1986 as The Natal Playhouse.

The Playhouse (1995-)

The complex was renamed The Playhouse in 1995 and became the home of the Playhouse Company.

For information on the theatre complex after 1995, see The Playhouse.


The complex consists of several venues including a drama theatre with a very adaptable stage area to allow for a proscenium arch, thrust stage or theatre-in-the-round productions by adjusting certain seating configurations. The complex also houses two rehearsal rooms the size of the main stage and a rehearsal room under the stage for an orchestra that is convertible to an intimate music venue.

The venues are:


Malcolm Woolfson, 1986. The Long Road that led towards the Natal Playhouse. Durban : The Natal Performing Arts Council.)

Marilyn Martin, 1995 (Catalogue: W.M. Timlin)

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