The Fugard Theatre in District Six last week became the latest casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last Tuesday its founder, Eric Abraham, announced that the theatre, established 10 years ago, would be closing with immediate effect
The arts and culture industry has been all but ravaged by the pandemic, with large numbers of singers, performers and directors out of work. Many of them reacted with great sadness to the news of the Fugard’s closure.
South African singer, songwriter and director David Kramer who created six productions at the Fugard Theatre said: “I heard about a year ago that the doors will be closing permanently. The closing is such a huge loss, it’s like an era that has passed which makes one feel this sense of sadness and grief.”
Mr Kramer said that all those in the performance industry were losing their potential for work and that one less theatre in Cape Town raised the insecurity in the industry.
“It was always a pleasure to work at the theatre because we were making original Cape Town stories that were told in such an authentic way. We also got to work with all the young and upcoming actors and got to know them really well. Such special relationships were built there and it was a special place to work at,” he said.
“It is hoped that the theatre will be used for the advantage of the community and hopefully it can still be used as some type of venue for entertainment. The government doesn’t support the theatre so it should be put into good use,” he said.
Musical director and arranger of Mr Kramer’s Langarm production, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder said the theatre was a building that was “so much more than what its walls could ever contain”.
“Yes, it contained music, words, dance and images but it also housed ideas and philosophies. It was home to a myriad of cultural identities and … soothed souls. I’m an optimist and know that the arts will continue with or without the Fugard and even though the Fugard Theatre will one day be a blip on the horizon of forgotten histories, right now the memory of it belongs to all of us. This is something no politician can take away from us.”
Show producer Vicky Davis described the closure as “devastating”.
“It will (cause) irreparable damage to the South African entertainment industry. The theatre was an important platform for creative artists in the theatre and music industry. There are writers, costume designers, technicians, performers and producers who will be affected
“The fact that the theatre wasn’t preserved during this difficult time of the pandemic, is quite sad to think of,” she said.
Bassist musical director Schalk Joubert said: “It is vital for a community and city to have venues of world class quality to not only host their artists but to host them in an environment where they deserve to be and where the audience can experience it at a quality level. The Fugard Theatre was such a beacon in Cape Town.”
Mr Joubert said echoed the hope that the building would be used for the benefit of the community and specifically the people of District Six.
District Six Working Committee spokesperson Karen Breytenbach said the theatre had been an important part of the culture of District Six.
“It was hoped that the spirit of the theatre could be revived when the claimants moved back. Therefore to lose the Fugard Theatre now is not only a loss for all Capetonians, but it’s a cultural blow to District six.
“We hope one day in the post Covid-19 world, that the Fugard Theatre and the other legendary District six theatres will be able to make a comeback in one way or another.”
The theatre will be handed back to the owner of the building and the board of the District 6 Museum.