Nico Malan Theatre Centre

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Originally known as the Nico Malan Theatre Complex in Cape Town.

Also known as the "The Nico" or "Die Nico" in Afrikaans.

The Nico Malan Theatre Centre (The Nico Malan Skouburg in Afrikaans) was opened on 19 May 1971, to be programmed and managed by the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) as a production house with four arts companies – orchestra, opera, ballet and drama. It was named after Dr Johannes Nicholas Malan (better known as Nico Malan), a politician and administrator of the Cape Province (1960-1970). Malan had initiated the building project.

The theatre complex was built on the premises where the Alhambra Theatre (a bioscope, at times also used as theatre) had originally stood. Architecturally and technologically the most advanced of all South African theatres when it was opened, it had been constructed for a massive R12million. It was one of the first theatres in the Southern Hemisphere with electro-mechanical facilities for transporting décor. The theatre was also geared with a computerised lighting system. A fire in the opera houses’ lighting switchboard caused approximately a R1million in damages in 1976.

In 1980, the largest symposium to date, a conference on Disaster Treatment, was attended by a 1400 people. In 1981, an even bigger crowd attended to hear the former South African and Israeli Cabinet minister, Abba Eban, speak.

As an attempt to popularise it and rid itself of the apartheid stigma, it was renamed "The Nico" (with the slogan "The Nico for All") in 19??.

Covering an area of some 14 000 square meters, the Centre consists of the following performance venues and spaces:

  • Opera House (seating 1487)
  • Theatre (seating 540)
  • Arena Theatre (seating 140, built on the side stage of the Theatre, originally as a space to house the work of CAPAB's experimental company, the CAPAB Theatre Laboratory.)
  • Piazza
  • Gardens
  • Rehearsal rooms
  • Parking

Apart from CAPAB's own productions, the Centre also acted as a receiving house for visiting/touring shows by other producers, some of which included: Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show (1992); Pieter Toerien's production of Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables (1996).

In line with the new South African the political dispensation and the concurrent changes, the complex was renamed the Artscape Theatre Centre in March 2001.

For more information, see Cape Performing Arts Board

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