The Market Theatre is an "alternative" theatre space created by writer/director Barney Simon and producer/administrator Mannie Manim in 1976. It has long been termed South Africa's unofficial "National Theatre" because of its pivotal role in the cultural politics of the Struggle years (1976-1994). The Market Theatre is administered by the Market Theatre Foundation.
- 1 The Market Theatre Building
- 2 The Market Theatre Foundation
- 3 The Company at the Market Theatre
- 4 Market Theatre Youth Company
- 5 Productions at the Market Theatre
- 6 The Market Theatre Laboratory
- 7 Sources
- 8 Return to
The Market Theatre Building
The Old Indian Market
The old produce market on the corner of Bree Street (now Lilian Ngoyi Street) and Wolhuter Street (now Margaret Mcingana Street) in Johannesburg, also known as the "Old Indian Market" or the "Newtown Market" (which had been opened in 1913), had finally closed after 60 years of trade and had been relocated to another part of the city.
The Company (an independent company committed to non-racial theatre, led by writer/director Barney Simon and producer/administrator Mannie Manim), was looking for a home base for their own work. They put in a bid, along with many other individuals and companies (including Schalk Jacobsz, Des and Dawn Lindbergh) for the building. The Company eventually won the tender in April 1975.
The building was converted and turned into a complex by Ozz Construction, from architectural designs by Rodney Grosskopff. It initially consisted of two stages, the Market Main Theatre (the circular old sales hall) and what was to be called Upstairs Theatre, and two galleries - one for graphic arts, one for photographs. Later the Laager was opened. Both the conversion and the subsequent running of the complex were funded entirely by donations from the private sector.
The Market Theatre became the ‘home’ of The Company and on the 4th of January 1976, Pleasure and Repentance, a fund-raising production was staged in a back room of the unfinished theatre. The presentation, directed by Barney Simon, consisted of a compilation of readings by well-known performers such as Janet Suzman, Michael McCabe and Ron Smerczak, with music by Keith Blundell. Danny Keogh was the stage manager for the production.
Opening in 1976
The Market Theatre was officially opened on October 19th 1976, operating as an independent, non-racial theatre during the country’s apartheid regime. It was named after the former enterprise on the site. Like the Space Theatre, The Market Theatre defied the Group Areas Act, which restricted theatres in "white" areas to whites only - both as audience and as actors. From the start the trustees of the Market Theatre Trust opened the stages and the auditoria to all who wished to come there, regardless of race. P.P.B. Breytenbach was a founder trustee. Honorary patrons were: Athol Fugard, Leon Gluckman, Nadine Gordimer, Sir Michael Redgrave & Janet Suzman. Lucille Gillwald played an instrumental role in the operation of the Market.
The Market Theatre quickly forged links with other alternative companies and theatres, such as the Space Theatre (from which it drew many of its ideas and artists) and the Baxter Theatre, exchanging productions with them. Besides productions by The Company, the venue also hosted the work of companies from the townships and elsewhere, some becoming regular performers there. These include the Earth Players and Bahumutsi Players. In this way it became the most prominent of the alternative political theatres by the end of the 1970s (see for example Graver and Kruger, 1989).
The theatre would also become a ‘Community Arts Centre’ with art exhibitions, photographic displays and training in aspects of theatre craft in its Market Theatre Gallery. The Market, its passages and especially its pub became a multiracial neutral area in the midst of Apartheid South Africa, while other artists and arts associations also moved into the area.
A 'National Theatre'
The Market Theatre developed into South Africa’s most renowned theatre space, unofficially considered the country’s “national theatre” in the 1980s and early 1990s. Gradually the precinct around it was also developed, so that by the late 1990s it included the Museum Africa exhibition rooms, Kippie's Jazz Club, the restaurants Gramadoelas and Kofifi, plus the Electric Workshop, where the 1997 Arts Biennale was held, the offices of the Film Resource Unit, the Dance Factory and the Bag Factory artists studios.
It was not until the 1990s, with the demise of the apartheid regime, that the Market Theatre would formally receive state funding. In 1990 the Market Theatre building was declared a national monument and in 1995 the theatre was awarded the prestigious Jujamcyn Award.
In 2013, a major revamp was undertaken, with capital funding from the Department of Arts and Culture, to enlarge capacity and make it more comfortable. However, because the building is a protected Heritage Site within Johannesburg's culturally important Newtown Precinct, the overhaul could not change any structural features.
Unfortunately, the city centre had also become depopulated and the Market Theatre a dangerious place, which affected attendance.
There are three theatre venues at The Market Theatre:
- Upstairs at the Market, opened on 21 June 1976, re-named The Barney Simon Theatre (capacity 100)
- The Main Theatre, opened on 19 October 1976, re-named The John Kani Theatre on 10 June 2014 (capacity 450)
- The Laager, opened in September 1978, renamed The Mannie Manim Theatre on 20 June 2016 (capacity 85-100)
Other spaces in the venue over the years have included:
- The Market Cafe (from 1 August 1976 to 17 July 1978)
- The Market Gallery
- The Market Theatre Bookshop
- The Rehearsal Room
- The Warehouse (opened in April 1987)
- Bar and Bistro
- Gramadoelas Restaurant
In 2023, the Senior Management team at the Market Theatre was: Greg Homann (Artistic Director), Tshiamo Mokgadi (Chief Executive Officer), Zingisa Jemsana (Chief Operating Officer) and Mlungisi Mkhayiphe (Chief Financial Officer).
The Market Theatre Foundation was formed in 1975 to raise funds for the conversion and maintenance of the building and to administer the complex.
For more information, see Market Theatre Foundation.
The Company at the Market Theatre
This is the name of the producing body (formed by Barney Simon, Mannie Manim and a small group of actors in Johannesburg in the early 1970s) and that was resident at the Market Theatre from its opening in 1976.
For more information, see The Company.
Productions at the Market Theatre
Productions by and from the Market Theatre have raked in awards all over the world, including Tony Awards, Laurence Olivier Awards.
The Theatre Upstairs/Upstairs at the Market/The Barney Simon Theatre
This venue is a smaller space in the Market Theatre building, used for more intimate plays and performances. It opened on 21 June 1976. It has also been referred to as Opstêrs by die Markteater in Afrikaans by the ever controversial Schalk Jacobsz, who performed there a number of times.
1976: Opening production - Barney Simon’s production of Chekhov’s The Seagull starring Erica Rogers, Vanessa Cooke, Sandra Prinsloo, Bill Brewer, Marius Weyers, Danny Keogh, Lindsay Reardon and Bess Finney; Barney Simon's production of The Crucible; Fugard’s The Blood Knot, directed by Benjy Francis and starring Francis and Fats Bookholane; Francis also directed Waiting for Godot with an all black cast; One Friday in Jerusalem, directed by Garalt MacLiam; Pieter-Dirk Uys’ God’s Forgotten, co-starring Christine Basson, Magda Beukes and Lynne Maree
1977: In association with The Company the Academy staged Murray Schisgal’s Broadway comedy Luv, directed by Barney Simon with Wilson Dunster, Janice Honeyman and James White; Robert Kirby’s How Now Sacred Cow
1978: An Afrikaans translation of Equus directed by Mario Schiess; Paradise is Closing Down directed by its author Pieter-Dirk Uys; Adam Small’s first play in English, The Orange Earth, directed by Jo Dunstan; Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, directed by Malcolm Purkey and starring Vanessa Cooke, Nicholas Ellenbogen and William Kentridge
1979: Barney Simon directed Cincinatti – Scenes from City Life starring Vanessa Cooke, Marcel van Heerden, Danny Keogh, Lesley Nott, Barrie Shah, Thoko Ntshinga, Bo Petersen, Sam Williams and Robin Smith for The Company at Upstairs; Donald Howarth directed his own play Ibchek starring Annabel Linder, Jacqui Singer, Frantz Dobrowsky, Danny Keogh and Elaine Proctor
1981: Die Bywoners produced the first translation of the Fugard play Hello and Goodbye called Hallo en Koebaai, directed by Jan Engelen and starring Schalk Jacobsz and Elna Potgieter; Pieter-Dirk Uys’ Karnaval, directed by Dawie Malan and starred Magda Beukes, Lida Botha, Dale Cutts and Joey de Koker; The Glass Menagerie, directed by Lucille Gillwald and starring Shelagh Holliday and Lesley Nott
1982: Paul Slabolepszy’s Saturday Night at the Palace starring Slabolepszy, Bill Flynn and Fats Dibeko, directed by Bobby Heaney; Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Talley’s Folly starring Dorothy Ann Gould and Anthony Fridjhon, directed by Bobby Heaney
1983: Bobby Heaney directed Edna O’Brien’s Virginia starring Sandra Duncan, Robert Whitehead and Yvonne Banning (February); Janice Honeyman directed Danny Keogh and Vanessa Cooke in This is for Keeps (August); Sweeney Todd, adapted and directed by Robert Whitehead starring Richard Haines and Grethe Fox (August); Janice Honeyman’s production, Forbidden Fruits, starring Vanessa Cooke, Jeremy Crutchley, Mike Huff, Danny Keogh, Amanda Strydom and Annelisa Weiland
1985: Deon Opperman’s Môre is ‘n Lang Dag (January); Christo Leech’s Die Spinner was the late night show at this stage; Robin Levetan’s Skyf starring Sean Taylor originated at the Baxter before playing here (May); Barney Simon, in collaboration with his cast which included Fiona Ramsay, Vanessa Cooke, Timmy Kwebulana, Gcina Mhlophe, Terry Norton, Thoko Ntshinga and Neil McCarthy wrote Born in the RSA which opened here in August 1985 before moving to the main theatre.
1986: In collaboration with Malcolm Purkey’s Junction Avenue Theatre Company the Company presented Sophiatown starring Minky Schlesinger (February), and subsequently the Market main house, abroad, with many return visits; Robert Kirby’s The Bijers Sunbird starring James Mthoba and Sean Taylor under Kirby’s direction (April); Reza de Wet’s Diepe Grond starring Dawid Minnaar, Susan Coetzer, Gys de Villiers and Doris Sihula under Lucille Gillwald’s direction; Robert Whitehead directed Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane starring Christine le Brocq, Anthony James, Kevin Smith and Danny Keogh (October); Steven Berkoff’s Greek, directed by Mavis Taylor; Keith Grenville’s Not About Heroes, for Volute Productions
The Main Theatre/The John Kani Theatre
1976: Opening play 19 Oct 1976: “The persecution and assassination of Marat, performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade” by Peter Weiss (known as Marat/Sade, directed by Barney Simon, starring Kenneth Hendel, Wilson Dunster and Sandra Prinsloo. This play sparked off the first of many controversies for which The Market Theatre became renowned over the years; Fatima Dike’s The Sacrifice of Kreli; the children’s matinee show Adventures of a Merry Madcap, written and directed by Janice Honeyman; Trevor Griffiths’ Comedians, directed by Leonard Schach and starring Bill Brewer, Michael Howard, Danny Keogh, Richard Cox, Ian Hamilton, Robert Whitehead and Anthony James, designed by Anthony Farmer.
1977: PACT's revival of Journey’s End, directed by Norman Coombes with Dale Cutts, Frantz Dobrowsky, Richard Haines, Michael McCabe, John Rogers and Norman himself; The Company presented Barney Simon’s revival of People Are Living There with Yvonne Bryceland, Wilson Dunster, Vanessa Cooke and Danny Keogh; The Company also staged the ME nobody knows, with music by Gary William Friedman and lyrics by Will Holt, directed by Benjy Francis, starring Leonie Hofmeyr, Leslie Mongezi, Nomsa Nene, Barrie Shah and Jonathan Taylor. John Kani and Winston Ntshona revived The Island with Alan Joseph as stage manager; Woody Allen’s Don’t Drink the Water, directed by Brian Astbury; Brecht’s Mother Courage with Yvonne Bryceland and Aletta Bezuidenhout, directed by Barney Simon; Barney Simon directed an Afrikaans translation of The Women of Troy starring Aletta Bezuidenhout, Jana Cilliers, Grethe Fox, Sandra Prinsloo and Wilna Snyman; The Company staged Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular, designed by Anthony Farmer and co-directed by John Hussey and Mannie Manim with Diane Appleby, Graham Armitage, Naomi Buch, Wilson Dunster, Kerry Jordan and Gay Lambert; Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club in December
1978: A revival of Long Day’s Journey into Night with Joe Stewardson, Shelagh Holliday, Danny Keogh and Ron Smerczak; Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy Relatively Speaking, directed by John Hussey and starring Hussey, Helen Jessop, Andre Hattingh and John Rogers; Sizwe Banzi is Dead, starring John Kani and Winston Ntshona; Woody Allen’s Play it Again, Sam; Athol Fugard’s A Lesson from Aloes, directed by and starring Fugard, together with Shelagh Holliday and Marius Weyers
1979: Barney Simon’s production of Albee’s The Death of Bessie Smith starring Janet Suzman, John Kani and Winston Ntshona; Mannie Manim staged Larry Gelbart’s Sly Fox for The Company, directed by Pieter-Dirk Uys and starred Patrick Mynhardt, Graham Armitage and Peter J. Elliott; Ira Levin’s Veronica’s Room was staged by The Company; Janice Honeyman staged the pop-musical Holy Moses and All That Jazz; Barney Simon directed Vivian Solomons and Wilma Stockenström in Fugard’s Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act; Pieter-Dirk Uys’ Die Van Aardes van Grootoor; Barney Simon directed Cincinatti – Scenes from City Life starring Vanessa Cooke, Marcel van Heerden, Danny Keogh, Lesley Nott, Barrie Shah, Thoko Ntshinga, Bo Petersen, Sam Williams and Robin Smith for The Company; The Company staged Alan Ayckbourn’s How the Other Half Loves starring Helen Jessop, Kenneth Baker, Richard Haines and Yvonne Banning, directed by Graham Armitage; Black Nativity directed by Pieter Scholtz and starring nineteen black artists as their Christmas production
1980: Roy Sargeant directed Peter Nichols’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg for The Company, starring Danny Keogh and Sandy Dacombe; Malcolm Purkey directed Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers, starring Ron Smerczak, Nicholas Ellenbogen and Michele Maxwell; Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, directed by Donald Howarth and starring John Kani, Winston Ntshona and Pieter-Dirk Uys; Janice Honeyman’s production of An Arabian Night; Elsa Joubert’s Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, directed by Hilary Blecher for The Company with Nomsa Nene; Cape Town’s Roundabout Theatre Company production of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, directed by Richard E. Grant and Mike O’Brien and starring Steven Berkoff, Henry Goodman, Fiona Ramsay and Ian Roberts
1981: In collaboration with the Baxter, Stephen Gray’s Cold Stone Jug, directed by Barney Simon; Arthur Kopit's Wings starring Shelagh Holliday; Cape Town’s Troupe Theatre Company brought their production of the Brecht-Weill Threepenny Opera starring Sean Taylor; Emlyn Williams brought his Charles Dickens production; Marico Moonshine and Mampoer, inspired by certain Bosman stories, directed by Janice Honeyman and Barney Simon; Janice Honeyman directed Ain’t We Got Fun; Taubie Kushlick staged From Taubie with Love starring Judy Page and Marloe Scott-Wilson
1982: Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser starring Michael Atkinson, Michael McCabe, Shelagh Holliday, Paddy Canavan, Lynne Maree and Simon Swindell, directed by Leonard Schach; Leonard Schach directed Shelagh Holliday, Lynne Maree and Eric Flynn in the staged version of Helene Hanff’s memoir, 84 Charing Cross Road; The Company staged Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce; Taubie Kushlick presented Joe Masiell in Joe Masiell Not at the Palace; Janice Honeyman staged Romeo and Juliet with Robert Whitehead and Vanessa Cooke; Mark Medoff’s Children of a Lesser God starring Jean St. Clair and Michael Richard with direction by Philipa Ailion; Janice Honeyman directed And Green And Golden
1983: The Baxter presented Julian Mitchell’s Another Country starring Sean Taylor, Neil McCarthy, Jeremy Crutchley and John Carson, directed by Nikolas Simmonds with lighting design by Pip Marshall; Athol Fugard’s Master Harold … and the Boys starring John Kani, Ramolao Makhene and Duart Sylwain and directed by Fugard who was assisted by Suzanne Shepherd; Pieter-Dirk Uys staged Farce About Uys starring himself, Thoko Ntshinga and Chris Galloway
1984: Nomsa Nene starred in Marius Weyers’ production of the English version of Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena; Michael Atkinson starred in Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin’s Beecham which Leonard Schach directed for the Company of Four; Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca starring Yvonne Bryceland, Elize Cawood and Louis van Niekerk
1985: Bobby Heaney’s production of Strindberg’s Miss Julie starring Sandra Prinsloo and John Kani (originated at the Baxter); Woza Albert!; Barney Simon, in collaboration with his cast which included Fiona Ramsay, Vanessa Cooke, Timmy Kwebulana, Gcina Mhlophe, Terry Norton, Thoko Ntshinga and Neil McCarthy wrote Born in the RSA; Paul Slabolepszy’s double bill Under the Oaks and Over the Hill, directed by Slabolepszy and Frantz Dobrowsky; David Kramer's Jol; Hugh Whitemore’s Stevie, and Lucille Gillwald’s production of Sam Shephard’s True West
1986: Fugard’s The Island; Pieter-Dirk Uys’s Beyond the Rubicon; Paul Slabolepszy’s Making Like America starring Paul, Marius Weyers, Nicky Rebelo and Lida Meiring under Bobby Heaney’s direction; The Vusisizwe Players performed here under Phyllis Klotz’s direction in You Strike the Woman, You Strike the Rock starring Thobeka Maqutyana, Nomvula Qosha and Poppy Tsira before touring Europe and North America; Soyikwa presented Matsemela Manaka’s Vuka; Basil Rubin presented Herb Gardiner’s I’m not Rappaport in association with the Market
1988: David Kramer and Taliep Petersen’s musical District Six – The Musical; Janice Honeyman’s Amabali – It’s Storytime; John Kani directed Kessie Govender’s Kagoos; Barney Simon directed David Lan’s Flight
1989: Fred Abrahamse’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (a Market-Baxter-Handspring Puppet Company collaboration); Janice Honeyman’s production of Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy; Athol Fugard’s My Children! My Africa!; Susan Pam’s Curl Up and Dye'; Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods
1990: Mbongeni Ngema’s musical Township Fever; Wendy Wasserman’s The Heidi Chronicles; Barney Simon’s Starbrites; Fiona Ramsay directed Christopher Durang’s Laughing Wild; Nicholas Ellenbogen’s pantomime A Nativity
The Laager/The Mannie Manim Theatre
1978: Die Van Aardes van Grootoor by Pieter-Dirk Uys, directed by Dawie Malan and starring Uys, Magda Beukes, Johan Botha, Lida Botha, Antoinette Kellermann, Nomsa Nene and Rina Nienaber was the opening production in September 1978.
1979: Pieter-Dirk Uys's Info Scandals, directed by Dawie Malan; Mario Schiess translated (from Kafka’s German) and directed Report to the Academy starring Marius Weyers; Harvey Fierstein’s International Stud
1980: Israel Horowitz’s The Indian Wants the Bronx starring Bill Curry, Michael Richard and Jonathan Rands, directed by Bobby Heaney; Robert Kirby wrote, directed, and co-starred (with Terry Lester) in Separate Development; Pieter-Dirk Uys, Tessa Uys and Thoko Ntshinga starred in Uyscreams with Hot Chocolate Sauce
1981: Henry Rootenberg’s Zeyda, starring Nicholas Ellenbogen, Molly Seftel and Frantz Dobrowsky; Athol Fugard’s Nongogo with Thoko Ntshinga; Woza Albert! developed by Mbongeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa under Barney Simon’s direction
1983: Janice Honeyman directed Danny Keogh and Vanessa Cooke in This is for Keeps(May, before playing at Upstairs in August); Stephen Gray’s Schreiner starring Elize Cawood, directed by Lucille Gillwald (August); Barney Simon’s production of Marsha Norman’s 'night, Mother starring Janice Honeyman and Julie Follansbee (September)
1984: Torch Song Trilogy
1985: Mbongeni Ngema’s Asinamali (directed by Ngema, May 1985 before going on a world tour and returning to the Market in December); Percy Mtwa wrote and directed Bopha (a Market and Earth Players; Saira Essa directed The Biko Inquest, created by John Blair and Norman Fenton
1986: Peter Se-Puma’s Hamba Dompas (directed by Nomsa Nene with the author and John Ledwaba (January); Gcina Mhlope’s Have You Seen Zandile? starring Gcina and Thembi Mtshali, directed by Maralin Vanrenen (February); Lucille Gillwald’s production of John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
1987: The opening production was Janice Honeyman’s Black and White Follies; Mara Louw and Bayete starred in Mayibuye iAfrica; Pieter-Dirk Uys presented Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the S.A. Bothatanic starring Chris Galloway, and in December of the same year Uys and Galloway joined forces again in Uys’ Cry Freemandela – The Movie.
Also known as the Market Café, this was a minute, eccentric and airless entertainment venue within the Market Theatre, which existed from 1 August 1976 to 17 July 1978. The concept was for a café-theatre in the continental style and it epitomised much of what the Market Theatre was striving to be. Initially run by Dave Marks and Fran Marks, it officially opened on the first of August 1976 with Alan Kwela. Later Marks added a small recording studio to the venue under the label of Third Ear Music. Due to financial problems the Market Café was shut down on 17 July 1978.
The Market Theatre Laboratory is the educational arm of the Market Theatre, established in 1989. It is the home of the Market Theatre Laboratory Drama School/Ramolao Makhene Drama School, and also manages the National Fieldwork Programme, the Writing Programme, Fieldworkers Festival/Market Laboratory Community Theatre Festival and the [[Zwakala Festival]].
For more information, see Market Theatre Laboratory.
Loren Kruger, 1999
Feature written by Helen Grange, The Star, 20 September 2001.
Creative Feel, 20 June 2016.
'A monument to theatrical excellence', The Star Late Edition, 27 February 2017.
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