Playhouse Theatre

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Playhouses and Playhouse Theatres

Over the years a number of theatres and cinemas have used the name Playhouse or Playhouse Theatre.

The Playhouse Theatre, Cape Town

The original name of De Hollandsche Kerk Zaal ("Dutch Church Hall"), a church hall built on Kerkplein, Cape Town in 18** , was bought/rented by ** in 19** and renamed the Playhouse Theatre. In 1916 it became the Afrikaanse Koffiehuis. ** Originally built in 18** as the Hollandsche Kerk Zaal ("Dutch Church Hall") on Kerkplein ("Church Square"), it was bought/rented by ** and renamed The Playhouse Theatre in 19**. An intimate venue, it was described as "cool, well lit and comfortably furnished" in a review by the Burger of 4 October 1915, though Bosman (1928) differed later, calling it "utterly unsuitable". It was used by local amateurs and professionals and performances include **, **, and Ann by ** in 1915, ***** In 1916 it became the Afrikaanse Koffiehuis, to be used as a venue for concerts, skits and performances, including the famous Koffiehuiskonserte .


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The Playhouse, Durban

The name of two theatres in Durban, the original "atsmospheric" Playhouse designed by W.M. Timlin and owned by African Consolidated Theatres (1935-1985) and the renamed Natal Playhouse complex (which incorporated the old Playhouse along with the Prince's Cinema and opened in 1985.

The original Playhouse

An Tudor-style which was opened in Durban on 7th of June 1935 by African Consolidated Theatres, with , Palm Court, Tudor Room and Grill Room.

Smith Street, Durban. This was an internationally-known Tudor-style Playhouse designed by William Mitheson Timlin. According to Marilyn Martin (1995) it opened in 1924(??*), but Malcolm Woolfson (1986) states that it was opened on 7/6/1935 by African Consolidated Theatres (ACT).

It contained an "atmospheric" cinema (or bioscope), Palm Court, Tudor Room and Grill Room. The cinema was one of four such "atmospheric theatres" built by ACT in the country, and sported a starry dome and crennelated walls.

The Playhouse is today the only preserved theatre of its kind in the country, for it was acquired by NAPAC and in 1986 incorporated into the 5-venue Natal Playhouse complex.

The Natal Playhouse

A 5-venue complex in Smith Street, Durban, presenting opera, ballet, musicals, Shakespeare, cabaret and experimental theatre. It consists of The Opera (seating capacity 1225), The Drama (481), The Loft (150), The Studio (196), and The Cellar (120). Inaugurated on 12 April 1986 by State President P. W. Botha, after the conversion, by the owners, NAPAC, of the original Prince's Cinema (opened 26/7/1926 by African Theatres) and the internationally-known Tudor-style Playhouse (opened 7/6/1935 by African Consolidated Theatres, with an "atmospheric" cinema, Palm Court, Tudor Room and Grill Room). (McM) (See: Woolfson, Malcolm. 1986. The Long Road that led towards the Natal Playhouse. Durban: The Natal Performing Arts Council.) DRAMA PLAYHOUSE. In Durban. ??*It opened in the beginning of 1987 with Malcolm Farquhar’s production of James Roose-Evans’ adaptation of Cider with Rosie which they co-presented with PACT. **** (Tucker, 1997) NAPAC, Dbn. Complex will consist of opera house 1300 seats, drama theatre – 5550 seats, with a very adaptable stage area. Will allow for a proscenium arch, thrust stage or theatre in round productions, by adjusting certain seating configurations. Architect Gordon Small of PMB. Two rehearsal rooms size of the main stage, big rehearsal room under the stage for orchestra convertible to an intimate music venue. The Loft will be converted into a large room giving flexible and informal seating. NAPAC’s Loft Drama Comp. will be a permanent comp. of about 12 under an artistic head – touring the province, doing lunch entertainment and schools work.

The Playhouse complex after 1995

Became the home of the Playhouse Company and was itself renamed The Playhouse


Malcolm Woolfson, 1986. The Long Road that led towards the Natal Playhouse. Durban : The Natal Performing Arts Council.)

Marilyn Martin, 1995 (Catalogue: W.M. Timlin)

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See further the Natal Playhouse and William Mitheson TimlinSee further Playhouse and Natal Playhouse

The Playhouse Theatre, Johannesburg

Situated in Braamfontein, had its inaugural production in October 1960 was For Love or Money, by Adam Leslie. Michael Finlayson directed this show starring Leslie himself, Joan Blake, Olive King, and comedian Garth Meade. Leonard Schach’s production of The Aspern Papers ran here after their season at the Hofmeyr Theatre in 1960. Michael Redgrave’s adaptation of this Henry James story saw the British actress Flora Robson in the lead opposite Canadian actor Robert Beatty. In December 1960 Leonard Schach announced he had signed a two-year lease with the Playhouse. Schach’s Cockpit Players maintained a high standard at the Playhouse in 1961 with Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker with Siegfried Mynhardt, Michael McGovern and Nigel Hawthorne, and Paddy Chayefsky’s prizewinning The Tenth Man, starring the same actors. Schach did William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker here in 1961, starring Reinet Maasdorp and Fiona Fraser. Leonard Schach presented Beyond the Fringe here in 1962, starring New Zealand-born Kerry Jordan and David Beattie. Leonard Schach directed Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, followed by Tennessee Williams’s The Night of the Iguana which was staged here by the Cockpit Players in 1962. In his company of actors for these plays were Siegfried Mynhardt, Michael McGovern, Margaret Inglis, Marjorie Gordon, Diane Wilson and Kerry Jordan. This saw the end of Schach’s lease of the Playhouse, and so the end of the Cockpit Players. The use of the Playhouse dwindled until it ceased to function as a theatre a year later. Leon Gluckman and Colin Fish presented Sir Donald and Lady Wolfit (the actress Rosalind Iden) in an evening of Shakespeare at the Playhouse in 1962. Wolfit and the producers replaced the programme with Ibsen’s The Master Builder when ticket sales dwindled. Brian Brooke’s Pyjama Tops was staged here in 1963. It starred Shirley Firth and John Hayter. **** (Tucker, 1997)


Percy Tucker, 1997

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The Playhouse, Somerset West

The was founded in 1947

The Hottentots Holland Dramatic Society (HHDS) established in 1947, opened The Playhouse on 26th May 1973. Designed by Harry Hargreaves, the original building consisted of a control room, auditorium, a small foyer on the west side, the stage and dressing room. The workshop was added at a later stage and then finally the Green room.

All through this period some exciting theatre was produced and their reputation as one of the leading dramatic societies in the Peninsula was established.

Over the past 12 years, more improvements have been made to the theatre including the tarring of the parking lot, the interior redecorated, new signage and a host of other small things. The Society does not receive grants from anywhere and has to generate income from shows & hires to survive.

So here they are, in the 21st century, with the Society still intact and moving ever onwards.


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