Nico Malan Theatre

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Nico Malan Theatre (The Nico Malan Skouburg in Afrikaans) was the original name of a theatre complex in Cape Town built for and managed by the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB)

It was named in honour of Dr Johannes Nicholas Malan, the former National Party administrator of the Cape Province, who initiated the project.

(Also known as the Nico Malan Theatre Centre or simply "The Nico" or "Die Nico" in Afrikaans.)

Both the complex and the company managing it are today known as Artscape (or Kunstekaap in Afrikaans), having been renamed in 2001.

The theatre complex was built on the premises where the Alhambra Theatre (a bioscope, at times also used as theatre) had originally stood, to accommodate the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB).


The theatre complex was officially opened on 19 May, 1971, as part of The Republic Festival of that year. The inaugural performance was scheduled to have been Giuseppe Verdi's Aïda, but the leading singer Emma Renzi fell ill, so the production was replaced by CAPAB Ballet's Sylvia. Other productions in the opening season were Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in Afrikaans and Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly.

Christine, a commissioned work by the Afrikaans playwright Bartho Smit, was to have been the Afrikaans Company's contribution, but was banned, so they put on Dieter Reible's experimental Afrikaans production of Koning Lear.

A controversial project in many ways, the theatre was originally reserved for the use of whites only, which caused an huge backlash. After enormous pressure was brought to bear it finally became the first South African theatre to allowed all races onto its premises in 1975. However, the boycott of the theatre by non-white communities lasted many more years. Architecturally and technologically the most advanced of all South African theatres when it was opened in 1971, it had been constructed for a massive R12million. One of the first theatres in the Southern Hemisphere with an 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 R1 million 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 showed up 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**. *By 199* the funding formula from the state had altered and it became more clearly dependent on rental income for its survival. At this time, for political reasons, the centre was once more renamed, becoming Artscape (along with its production company, CAPAB) and it was virtually recast as a venue rather than a performing arts board, though certain entrepreneurial projects remained, including a New Writer’s Programme and a variety of outreach projects*? Nico Malan: It was named after the Administrator of the Cape. Now Artscape. Peter Curtis and Pieter Fourie ran CAPAB Drama circa 1971 during which they acquired their own theatre and opera house namely the Nico Malan. Their first performance infront of an integrated audience, the Academy Theatres’ Who Saw Him Die? took place on 21 February 1975. Pieter Toerien brought Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Les Miserables to the Nico in 1996. CAPAB’s production of Dalene Matthee’s Fiela se Kind starring Shaleen Surtie-Richards was staged here in 1986. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was a combined performing arts council’s production which was staged here in 1991. Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show was staged here in 1992. Geoffrey Sutherland, Andrew Botha and Graham Scott’s production of Queen at the Opera was staged here post 1996. Taliep Petersen and David Kramer’s Poison was staged here in 1992. NAPAC, CAPAB and PACOFS presented Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! here in 1993. David Matheson directed Hair here in 1993. Jesus Christ Superstar was staged here in 1993. Nico Malan Theatre Centre was opened on 19 May 1971.

In line with the new South African political dispensation and the concurrent changes, both the CAPAB and the theatre complex were both renamed to Artscape in March 2001.


The Drama

The Opera

The Arena or Nico Arena


Percy Tucker, 1997;

Danie van Eeden, 1985.

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See further Artscape, .

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