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African Theatre
Cape Town, Western Cape

Street:Riebeek Square

Also called Die Ou Komediehuis

Governor Sir George Yonge had realized the necessity for building a theatre for the entertainment of both the garrison and the public. According to the writings of Lady Anne Barnard, it was an idea that took much of his attention and he literally sat and watched the building rise from the ground.

The African Theatre opened in 1801 with a performance of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part One. Mrs Somers wrote an opening address to Apollo, which was spoken by her husband Dr Somers of the Military Hospital. 'It was too fine for anyone to understand it' was Lady Anne Barnard's comment, continuing her caustic criticism, 'As for the play itself, the piece was a dull one . . .The Doctor thought he shone as Falstaff, we did not agree with him.'

At the time of the Second British Occupation the troops took over the theatre almost entirely. Thomas Sheridan, the consumptive son of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, helped the enthusiastic amateurs with their productions. However, by 1839, the African Theatre was sufficiently out of demand to be sold to the Dutch Reformed Church as a church for newly freed slaves, and before long the old building was in use during the week as a school and during weekends as a church and Sunday school.

(Picton-Seymour, 1989: 23)

See St Stephen's

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about this entry

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pg 23