Windybrow Theatre Complex
- 1 BEING EDITED
- 2 Windybrow: The house
- 3 Windybrow: The theatre venue
- 4 Venues in the Windybrow Theatre Complex
- 5 Sources
- 6 Return to
Windybrow: The house
Windybrow is the name of a mansion, situated on the corner of 161 Nugget and Pieterson streets, Doornfontein, Johannesburg, originally built by Theodore Reunert, an architect and founder of the engineering firm Reunert and Lenz (now part of Barlow Rand) in 1896. Called “Windybrow” because Reunert admired the poetry of Robert Southey, whose home in England had that name. When Reunert left the country at the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War, boarders occupied the mansion. Later student nurses moved in.
Windybrow: The theatre venue
By 1986 Windybrow had been unoccupied for several years and the government intervened to declare the house a cultural institution.
The PACT years: 1986-1994
The first play performed there was a piece called Ulovane Jive, workshopped by its cast which included Aletta Bezuidenhout, Nomhle Nkonyeni, Clare Stopford, Nandi Nyembe and Jacqui Singer (1986). This was followed of plays such as Tjaart Potgieter’s production of Mitzi Booysen’s The Time of the Hyena (with Elize Cawood, Pierre Knoesen and Nomhle Nkonyeni), Hello South Africa/Hallo Suid-Africa by Casper de Vries wrote, composed and directed the cabaret Hello South Africa/Hallo Suid-Africa starring himself, Johan Engelbrecht, Elsabé Zietsman, June van Merch and Didi Kriel circa 1986. The old B.G. Alexander Nurses Home hall was converted for PACT by Stan Knight and Andrew Botha and opened on 7 February 1987 in the Windybrow complex. Bobby Heaney directed The Maids for PACT here in 1987. Shirley Firth presented Barry Creyton’s Double Act here in 1988. Janice Honeyman directed Charles Dickens’ Hard Times for PACT here in 1989. Terrence Shank directed Persona here in May 1990. Deon Opperman’s Dear Mrs Steyn was staged here in October 1990. Leonard Schach presented A Walk in the Woods here in 1990. PACT and Joyce Levinsohn Productions presented Tales of Beatrix Potter and Oliver! here in 1991. PACT and DALRO presented the Windybrow Arts Festival which featured Jozi Jozi Guide in 1993. John Matshikiza’s production of Julius Caesar was staged here in 1994. **** Percy Tucker, 1997 Windybrow: PACT’S home in JHB. Originally built in 1896 for Theodore Reunert, a pioneer in education and well-known firm, Reunert & Lenz. Was designed by William Leck an architect & friend of Reunert. The name, Windybrow was derived from the home of Robert Southey, in the Lake District. At one stage a mess for Genl. French;s troops. Reunert sold the house in 1921. 1934 – 45 a borading house. Then purchased by Tvl Provincial Admin for one of three nursing residences & later became BG Alexander College of Nursing. Was declared a National Monumnet in 1975 and Province decided to make this property available for PACT with the adjoining hall of the Alexanders Nurses Training College as a contribution of the Tvl to Jhb centenary of 1986...Pact wanted to direct all the activities of the organisation from here. The admin & public relations offices will be there and permanently house the English drama company. The new Arena, the experimental company will also be there. Productions started in 1986.
The independent years
After 1994 it became an independent cultural institution aimed at the development and promotion of the performing arts though. Run by Walter Chakela for PACT. Over the years the centre has encouraged and performed new work by writers, directors and performing artists.
Starting with one experimental space in the late 1980s, the centre has gradually acquired three theatre spaces - The Nadine Gordimer, which accommodates 230 people; The Dalro, which seats 60; and what The Trustbank, with room for 40. There was also a coffee shop, a bar and several rehearsal rooms.
The Centre also runs the annual Windybrow Arts Festival. (See also PACT).
The 2017 revamp
Windybrow was mothballed in 2013 amid allegations of maladministration and corruption, with millions of rand meant for the rehabilitation of the heritage building allegedly vanishing under its previous management.
The Department of Arts and Culture closed the complex down and handed its management to The Market Theatre Foundation to run it as one of its business units. They appointed Keituletse Gwangwa as head of the centre. The idea is to restore the 120-year-old heritage building to its former glory and housing a theatre, rehearsal spaces, libraries, a research centre and an art exhibition space. Its new tagline is to be: "More than a Theatre".
Venues in the Windybrow Theatre Complex
A theatre space in the Windybrow complex. The old B.G. Alexander Nurses Home hall was converted for PACT by Stan Knight and Andrew Botha. Sponsored by Norman Nossel and Adcock-Ingram it opened on 7 February 1987 with a production of Euripides’ The Women of Troy which was directed by Dieter Reible.
Productions in the Adcock-Ingram Auditorium include: Des Lindberg and Dawn Lindberg presented When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout, directed by Dawn Lindberg, in July 1987. Basil Rubin in association with CAPAB brought William Luce’s Zelda here in August 1987. Deon Opperman’s Stille Nag, directed by the author was staged here in 1989. Moira Blumenthal and NAPAC presented William Finn’s March of the Falsettos here in September 1989. Ilse van Hemert directed Chekhov’s The Seagull here in 1990. *** (Tucker, 1997)
Edward Tsumele. 2018. Restoration project lifts grand old theatre complex in Joburg. Heritage specialists restore and modernise the 120-year-old Windybrow Centre of the Arts. Business Day, 23 January 2018
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page