Paul de Groot Toneelgeselskap

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Die Paul de Groot Toneelgeselskap ("The Paul de Groot Theatre Company") was first fully professional Afrikaans theatre company, founded by Paul de Groot in 1925.

Also referred to simply as the De Groot Geselskap at times.

The first fully professional Afrikaans theatre company. Although Paul de Groot did a large number of amateur and semi-professional productions in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Volksrust during the course of 1925-1926, these were individual attempts and did not constitute a formal company. Likewise, Hendrik Hanekom's Die Afrikaanse Toneelspelers was a semi-professional operation.

The first formal company of fully professional performers was founded in June 1926, when Hendrik Hanekom and Paul de Groot joined forces to create the Paul de Groot Toneelgeselskap.

The company initially consisted of Hendrik Hanekom (Business manager), Mathilde Hanekom, Simon Malherbe, and Anna Marais from the Hanekom company, Paul de Groot (Artistic director) and Wena Naudé from the former De Groot group and two novices, Gert Borstlap and Maxie Botha.

Their first production was Huis Toe (Südermann - 1926), then As Mans Huishou (Jan van Ees - 1927), Gerieflike Huwelik (A. Dumas snr - 1927), Die Inbreker (Van Ees, 1927, toured by a second company led by Wena Naudé) and Besigheid is Besigheid (Octave Mirbeau, 1928).

In March 1928 (Binge has 15 March 1929) Hanekom and De Groot parted company, apparently because of De Groot's avarice. De Groot continued on his own, touring till October 1930 i.a. with Rosekrans (Barclay/Bisson) with Lydia Lindeque, Haar Twede Man (Géraldy) with André Huguenet (Gert Borstlap renamed), Henri van Wyk and Rena la Roche, and Geleende Geld (Ibsen) with Hélène Botha, André Huguenet, Henri van Wyk, Peter Coetzee. Both very successful.

In 1931 De Groot undertook a "world tour" to the Belgian Congo and India as part of a Dutch company. He returned in April 1931 and formed a new company to celebrate his 25 jubilee and to tour with Besigheid is Besigheid again (83 performances). The cast consisted of professionals and a number of Free State amateurs, including Lydia Lindeque, Roekie van Rensburg, J. Lückhoff, David Muller, F. Botten and P. van Ingen. He then went on to do Die Verliefde Indringer (later known as Die Oorwinnaar - 1932) and Bodemvas (1932) a dramatisation of S. Bruwer's Afrikaans novel, the latter in association with the Universiteit van Stellenbosch se Dramatiese Vereniging. The cast included Yvonne Liebenberg in the lead, and Maria van Dyk, P.J. Loots, Margeret Webb, Gideon Boshoff, Nic Laubscher, J. Scholtz and Elsa Dreyer. The play failed miserably.

He was now invited to work under the auspices of African Consolidated Theatres and did Verborge Sonde (La Monaco by Pierre Frondaie) with Henriëtte de Waal (August-October 1933), Misdade van die Vaders ("Misdeed of the Fathers" by Albert du Biel), Kain (also by Du Biel - 1934). This cast consisted of Henriëtte de Waal, Bettie Reitz, Nell van Nieuwenhuizen, Rosa du Plessis, John Brill, Johannes Coetzee, Dewald van der Merwe, Tommie Beckley and Frits de Lange.

The next play was Eerloos ("Without Honour" by **, translated by A.J.A. Roux - 1935) and opened in the Eendragsaal in Johannesburg with Tommie Beckley, Hetta Beckley, Queenie Vorster, Jacobus Swanepoel and Jan Swiegers. In April 1935 De Groot went to Rhodesia to substitute for Walter Huston in the Gaumont-British film on Cecil John Rhodes and the company broke up, signalling the end of the De Groot era in South Africa.


Ludwig Binge, 1969 [TH]

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See also Paul de Groot, Die Afrikaanse Toneelspelers

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