A Victorian horseshoe shaped theatre, it was opened in 1891. The first solid, purpose-built and lushly decorated theatre in the city, it seated 800 people, but could house up to 1000 with extra seating - though, according to P.J. du Toit (1988) it could house 1400. The favoured venue of touring theatre and opera companies from England, later taken over by Leonard Rayne and used for his productions till his untimely death in 1925. Mark Twain performed his At Home there in May 1896. Also used for Afrikaans plays, such as W.J. Pienaar's Saul (produced there in 1925), ** During the second world war it became a favoured venue for the Gwen ffrangçon-Davies and Marda Vanne company’s seasons of major plays and was also the home of the Johannesburg REPS. The most prestigious theatre in Johannesburg by the middle of the 20th Century, it apparently (according to Du Toit, 1988) had by then a seating capacity of 1400. **** To major protests from the theatrical fraternity it was demolished in 19**, to make way for ***. The last production to be put on was Henry Gilbert’s production of Golden Boy by Clifford Odets, in 1947.
The Standard Theatre:
First purpose built theatre in Johannesburg, it was a lushly decorated Victorian horseshoe shaped theatre, erected behind the Rissik street Post Office in Market Street. Seated 800 people, but with the addition of extra seats could house a 1000. (According to P.J. du Toit, 1988, it could house 1400.) It opened 1891 and became favoured venue of touring theatre and opera companies from England and elsewhere. For example Mark Twain performed his At Home there in May 1896.
Later it became home to the company of Leonard Rayne and his popular leading lady, Freda Godfrey. On occasion it was also used for Afrikaans plays, such as W.J. Pienaar's Saul (produced there in 1925).
During the second world war it became a favoured venue for the Gwen ffrangçon-Davies and Marda Vanne company's seasons of major plays and was also the home of the Johannesburg REPS. Productions by Gwen Ffrangçon-Davies and Marda Vanne in this period included Watch on the Rhine by Lilian Hellman in 1943, starring Gwen ffrangçon-Davies and Derick Redman. Once the war was over, 1946 became a prolific year, with Elizabeth Renfield and company performing Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill and an adaptation of Wuthering Heights with Johann Nell playing Heathcliff opposite Miss Renfield’s Cathy; Wensley Pithey and company staged Laburnum Grove , starring Siegfried Mynhardt; the Theatre Guild Company staged The Lady of the Rose; the Munro-Inglis Company produced Shaw’s Pygmalion and in December Taubie Kushlick directed and played in George Washington Slept Here, starring Wensley Pithey and Gordon Mulholland.
In 1947 Marjorie Gordon and company, in association with ACT, presented Coward's Design for Living; Siegfried Mynhardt directed Laura for the Johannesburg REPS; the Munro-Inglis Company staged their last Standard Theatre production, Somerset Maugham's Lady Frederick starring Siegfried Mynhardt and Golden Boy, by Clifford Odets turned out to be the last production to be performed at The Standard. Henry Gilbert cast Eric Boon and Gay Gibson in this 1947 production.
The Standard was forced to close it's doors in September, 1947, by the council, but was only demolished in 1956. ****
Percy Tucker, 1997 (See Binge, 1969?, Du Toit, 1988; Tucker, 1997) [TH, JH]
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