Guy Butler Theatre

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The Guy Butler Theatre is one of several venues located in the 1820 Settlers Monument on Gunfire Hill in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown).

This was originally called the 1820 Settlers Monument Theatre (and typically referred to as the Monument Theatre) but after it was badly damaged in a fire in 1994, the renovated venue was renamed after the founding director the 1820 Settlers Foundation (now the Grahamstown Foundation), professor Guy Butler. It is a key venue for the National Arts Festival.

This is one of the largest theatres in South Africa, with excellent acoustics, computerised lighting equipment, comfortable seating, air conditioning and an orchestra pit.

The Guy Butler Theatre is considered the flagship venue at the 1820 Settlers Monument. The versatile, comfortable venue has a 943-seater auditorium with stage, PA, lighting, projection facilities and dressing rooms. The Guy Butler Theatre has accommodated full orchestra, opera and ballet performances; movies, bands, theatre, and dance and is also used as a venue for a conference plenary or keynote, school or club prize-giving or graduation ceremony.


Designed by monument architect, Frederick Lamond (Jock) Sturrock who initially referred to it as the "Memorial Hall", the planners ultimately turned it into an auditorium seating 920 people with a 50 piece orchestra pit. The stage, with 15.5m revolve, included side and rear spaces with a loading bay. With a 25m high fly tower and a computerised lighting system, the theatre boasted facilities among the best in Southern Africa. There is a ballet rehearsal room and dressing rooms for 68 performers.

Inaugurated with the Monument itself on 13 July 1974, it opened with a CAPAB production of Shakepeare's King Lear, directed by Roy Sargeant, designed by Ken Robinson, with Michael Atkinson as Lear. The theatre is used for dramatic, musical, amateur and professional productions, for conventions, prize-givings and university graduations. It serves as the offices for the 1820 Settlers' Foundation and the Grahamstown Festival Committee. It is also the hub of the annual festival.

Extensively refurbished since the fire gutted it in 1994, improvements to the auditorium include: state-of-the-art lighting and sound technology, significantly improved acoustics, a new 700 squre metre stage floor with loading access optimised, and 943 fireproof seats. The venue was renamed the Guy Butler Theatre in 1996.


Boltt J. Fire damage to the 1820 Settlers' National Monument. Grahamstown Foundation Media Office, April, 1996.

Butler G. 1820 Settlers Monument Neville, T. More lasting than bronze: a story of 1820 Settlers.


Mail & Guardian, 16 September 1994


the Wikipedia entry at

For more information

See the 1820 Settlers Monument, Grahamstown Foundation and the National Arts Festival

See also Festival

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