The bell tolls for theatre’s closure

ORIELLE BERRY

It’s curtains down for the The All Star Theatre at the Cape Gate Lifestyle Centre in Brackenfell.

Opened two years ago by star Emo Adams as a stage on which to perform his shows and that of other well-known and up-and-coming Cape performers, the theatre had the space to accommodate up to 400 guests, but also acted as an intimate venue for revues.

Among productions that swept the boards there were Cabaret, The Wizard of Oz, Adams in Finding Emo and with Loukmaan Adams his brother, in Brother Love, as well as local acts Die Heuwels Fantasties, Kurt Darren, Francois van Coke, Zahier Samsodien and Brackenfell comedien, Joe Emilio.

Lieflinge was advertised as the second last show before All Star Theatre would be closing its doors.

“Come and enjoy one of our last goodbyes with two of the most talented singers this Saturday,” read a Facebook post in February but a subsequent post by a private individual notified Facebook users the show was cancelled and commented, “Yes cancelled. So disappointed. So last minute”.

Northern News tried to find out more about the closure. It was confirmed by a receptionist who answered the number offered on its website and did not wish to be named.

General manager Olivia Gildenhuys, in response to an email query, wrote, “We will do an official press release when the time is right”.

Northern suburbs theatres and entertainment venues were saddened by the news of the closure, saying each venue offers a distinctly different atmosphere and type of show.

Margit Meyer-Rodenbeck of Die Boer Theatre, in Durbanville, told Northern News: “We are really very sorry to hear that the All Star Theatre is closing down. It is very tough to make a theatre like this work in the present economic conditions. We salute everybody who is brave enough to create a platform despite all these obstacles.

“We at Die Boer theatre restaurant believe that there can’t be enough platforms for artists in this country.

“We were very excited when All Star opened – being one of Emo’s lifelong dreams and another venue in the northern suburbs. People often think nothing culturally exciting happens behind the ‘boereworsgordyn’ (the boerewors curtain) and we want to prove them wrong,” she said.

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“The All Star helped to promote that idea.

“We are really going to miss our ‘partner in crime.’ “

Said Mario Bento, whose theatre and music school the Jamrock is close by, in Brackenfell, “We are all struggling to keep our places more profitable.

“We need more support from cultural institutions as it’s obviously a very tough industry.

“But the main problem here is why is this closing down? We need to think of the bigger picture and maybe people are not being cultural.

“When people come to the Jamrock they seem to be more interested in the pub and don’t seem to want to fork out the money for the show. It bothers me. Capetowners are weird as they often book at the last moment.

“But in general, it’s a sad fact that people just don’t support local theatre. We even tried an Afrikaans artist and people weren’t really interested. They just don’t seem to want to pay for the entrance fee.”

Danielle Pascale is a well-known face in the northern suburbs and her guest house cum theatre and entertainment venue, Villa Pascale, has been pulling in crowds for more than a decade. Eugene Lebreton, manager of the venue since it opened, commented: “For any venue to close in the Northern suburbs is not good.

“We were the first one in 2002 and then the Barnyard Theatre and Die Boer.

“The theatres all cater to different markets and many people who live around here go from venue to venue to see the diverse shows. The All Star catered to those living close by in Kraaifontein and Brackenfell.”

He added, “We are an in-house environment and often the rent in shopping centres is killing to those located there.

“It’s extremely sad for Emo but theatre doesn’t die. Content is also so very important and we all have to have a niche market content. In terms of sustainability you have to diversify and read the market. That is so important,” he said.

A relatively new theatre in Bellville is the Collective Art Theatre (CAT). Gavin Wright, manager of the theatre echoed other theatres’ disappointment at the All Stars’ closure.

“It catered to a different niche market, but sometimes the bigger the theatre, the more difficult it is to fill houses.

“Arts and culture do suffer in the Northern suburbs but there is definitely a need, what with the expense of travelling to see shows in Cape Town,” he said.

CAT, which is a 94-seater, opened last year in July after a revamp and offers dramas, comedies and acts as a venue for CD launches.

“One of the reasons we’ve had full houses is the fact we are small. For the Northern suburbs it’s wonderful to have a range of theatres and the closure of the All Star is very unfortunate,” said Mr Wright.

Marlene le Roux, CEO of the Artscape Theatre, told Northern News: “I am saddened by the fact that this professional theatre, under the leadership of an iconic actor, singer and theatre maker must close it doors.

“I know personally Emo Adams tried his level best. But we need to take into account the financial challenges we live in. Usually if households must weigh up going to the theatre, or pay school fees, food and petrol, then a theatre ticket is just not part of their household budget. Theatres, all over SA are feeling the pinch. Artscape is till open, due to producers that hire out the opera house, and invest in feel-good musicals. Emo’s theatre is a private entity, and this concept in itself is very difficult.”

She added, “This theatre was so good for the Northern suburbs. Maybe Emo Adams, should approach the Cape Town municipality to get more support/funding from them.”

MEC of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais also said she was also extremely saddened by the news.

“Community theatres contribute to the development, preservation and promotion of arts and culture in the Western Cape. It is unfortunate that the All Star Theatre was closed down as we acknowledge its instrumental role played in creating effective and vibrant functioning arts and culture structures in the area”.