The independent theatre scene is heavily underfunded and often battles to secure adequate media coverage. It nevertheless remains a vibrant and ever-developing industry, which offers audiences a reflective look into contemporary South African society. So, why not take a couch-binge break and invest your time by going out into the city to watch an original live performance at one of the niche theatre venues scattered around our streets and suburbs?
To The East…
The quiet East Rand boasts two bustling alternative theatre venues — POPArt Theatre and the Sibikwa Arts Centre. POPArt, which is located to the East of the inner city, in the artsy Maboneng Precinct, is a newly established hive for young creatives looking to showcase their work. The Sibikwa Arts Centre, on the other hand, was established in Benoni during the height of the cultural boycott in 1988.
Regardless of their histories, both of these independent venues offer audiences a wide range of innovative, female-led shows. So, head out to the sleepy East to engage yourself in work that may be a little provocative, but always inspired by a dedication to bring theatre into the communities that need it most.
In The Middle
The centre of Johannesburg brims with live performance spaces, from the iconic Joburg Theatre Complex to the less well-known Gauteng Opera residency at the Tin Town Theatre. Our other favourite independent inner city venues include The Market Theatre Laboratory, The Space.com and the UJ Arts Centre.
These spaces offer everything from classical opera and ballet, to the best upcoming student productions from the most well-renowned drama schools in the city. We recommend becoming a frequent visitor to any of these great venues. They produce multiple shows year-round, with tickets often available at discounted prices.
Over in The North…
The northern suburbs of Joburg are home to two alternative theatre spaces: The Olive Tree Theatre and The Auto & General Theatre on the Square. While these venues are relatively close distance-wise, they are miles apart in their creative mission and productive output.
The Olive Tree Theatre is situated in the Alexandra township, which borders the city’s fast-growing economic Sandton district. This independent arts space seeks to develop township community theatre, with female narrative led stories at the heart of its mission. They also regularly host film screenings, poetry slams and intimate jazz concerts.
On the other side of town, The Auto & General Theatre on the Square sits happily hidden away beneath the Nelson Mandela Square shopping mall and restaurant complex. The venue is decorated in deep cabaret reds, but audiences can expect a range of diverse productions on show, including classical music performances, comedy shows and the best in post-post-modern South African theatre.
On The West Side
Last, but not least, the South-West corner of Joburg offers theatre lovers two grand performance complexes to catch the latest big-budget original musicals, dance shows and school festivals. The Roodepoort Theatre and Soweto Theatre are subsidiaries of the Joburg Theatre, which means they are not wholly independent. However, as smaller productions are regularly given the limelight at these complexes, with poetry showcases being billed alongside grand symphony concerts, we have added them to this list.
Do you know of any awesome independent theatre venues in the city that we haven’t mentioned? Write to us in the comments section below.