The Fugard Theatre. Picture: Supplied
The Fugard Theatre. Picture: Supplied

Final curtain call for Cape Town’s Fugard theatre

By Kedibone Modise, Chad Williams Time of article published Mar 17, 2021

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Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre is closing its doors permanently with immediate effect, after being shut for a full year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many performing arts institutions have in the past year experienced significant economic setbacks due to the lockdown regulations and this has resulted in closures of several popular theatre houses.

The founder of the 320-seater theatre, located within the historic Sacks Futeran building in Cape Town’s District Six, said in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday that it would not be safe health-wise, or financially viable to reopen in the foreseeable future.

“The theatre will be handed back to the owner of the freehold of the building – the board of The District 6 Museum – as a working theatre and we hope that they will be able to use it for the benefit of the Museum and the District 6 community,” founder, producer and benefactor Eric Abraham said.

He thanked the theatre staff for all their hard work as well as patrons for their support of the Fugard Theatre over the last 10 years.

Last July, four months into a national lockdown enforced by the government to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, the theatre said it would remain closed until it was confident that staff, performers and audiences would not be at risk from the virus.

The arts industry has been decimated due to the ongoing health crisis, with artists saying they have received little to no support from the government during the lockdown.

In January, theatre practitioners and artists had called for the resignation of Nathi Mthethwa.

A group of theatre-makers and practitioners started an online petition urging President Cyril Ramaphosa to axe Mthethwa.

“We call on President Ramaphosa to launch ‘a new dawn’ for arts and culture by exercising his right to replace the Minister, as well as the leadership of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture that has been complicit in the failures of the Department and the minister for the last number of years,” read the statement.

According to the Twitter thread, the petition’s initial sponsors were Gregory Maqoma, Sylvaine Strike, Faniswa Yisa, Ismail Mahomed, Warren Nebe, Lesego van Niekerk, Yvette Hardie, Daniel Galloway, Ipeleng Merafe, Sbonakaliso Ndaba, Alex Sutherland, Liam Anthony, Mike van Graan and Jackie Rens.

“We, the undersigned artists, arts organisations and individuals who seek to make our living within the theatre sector, and more broadly, within the South African arts ecosystem, hereby call upon Mr Nathi Mthethwa to resign as Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture by 31 January 2021.

Mthethwa later issued an apology but it didn't help much as the arts sector continues to suffer, with little to no help from the department.

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