Durban’s Playhouse complex links the city’s present with its past. The current theatre facade preserves two of the city’s most famous landmarks, situated adjacent to each other in central Smith Street opposite the City Hall, first conceived as cinemas, namely the glamorous Prince’s Theatre, which originated in 1926, and the grand, Tudor-styled Playhouse, which originally opened its doors to public fanfares and capacity house in 1935.
In the early 1980s, these two celebrated entertainment venues underwent expert renovation and conversion into a state-of-the-art, multi-venue theatre complex that faithfully preserved many of the buildings’ original characteristics and archetectural features. This was officially opened in the mid ’80s as The Natal Playhouse, subsequently to become known by its present-day title The Playhouse, Kwazulu-Natal’s premier theatre complex and home of The Playhouse Company.
The Playhouse Company is eThekwini’s premier theatre organisation, based at the Playhouse theatre complex in Anton Lembende Street (formerly Smith Street) in the heart of the coastal city of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. As a cultural institution The Playhouse Company receives public funding from the South African National Government and the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government.
The Playhouse Company is mandated to produce an equitable programme of live theatre productions in the fields of music, drama and dance, representative of the diverse cultural groups that comprise the population of KwaZulu-Natal, both in terms of audiences and artists based in the Province. In addition, the company holds the responsibility of devising and managing a dynamic education and development programme in the performing arts with respect to growing youth audiences as well as nurturing community based artists, groups and organizations that are in need of back-up from the company’s marketing expertise and technical resources. The Playhouse Company also has the responsibility of managing the Playhouse complex’s various performance and public venues that are for hire when not in use for the Company’s own productions, or those presented in association with The Playhouse Company. The Playhouse Company aims to produce live theatre in all its forms of an international standard commensurate with its stature as one of South Africa’s leading performing arts bodies.
The Company maintains its own arts administrative and marketing wing as well as a staff complement that runs its financial administrative function. It also runs a fully-fledged wardrobe department (including a hire wardrobe wing) and a production branch that makes and hires out stage décor and props. While the Company no longer sustains its own in-house arts companies of dancers, actors or musicians, it is mandated to commission the services of practitioners in these fields from the private sector, for main-stage and education projects that it mounts each year – both at the Playhouse complex itself, and with specially devised productions that tour to rural communities throughout the province.
Durban’s Playhouse complex links the city’s present with its past. The current theatre facade preserves two of the city’s most famous landmarks, situated adjacent to each other in central Smith Street opposite the City Hall, first conceived as cinemas
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