The Market Theatre in Newtown, Johannesburg, is one of our oldest and most charming theatres. It is a lot more than just a theatre though – it ’s a cultural complex for stage productions, music, dance and art – and has a really interesting background.
Founded in 1976 by Mannie Manim and Barney Simon, the Market Theatre was way ahead of its time. It challenged the apartheid regime, using art as a way to break boundaries, staging plays and musicals for and by all South Africans. The Market Theatre provided a voice for the voiceless and became known as South Africa’s ‘Theatre for the Struggle.’
Today, more than forty years later, the Market Theatre is at the forefront of South African theatre. There are three theatres – The Barney Simon, The Laager and The John Kani – as well as a gallery and photographic exhibition space. There is also the Market Laboratory – a training space for drama students – and the Market Photo Workshop – a school of photography.
Visiting The Market always makes me feel like I’m stepping back in time. Some of the most amazing South African productions have been staged here – Woza Albert, Sophiatown, You Strike the Woman You Strike the Rock, as well as many of Athol Fugard’s award winning dramas.
Today the Market showcases a wide variety of theatre, usually African in style, but also works by worldwide award winning playwrights.
The theatre, which was built in the part of the old Indian fruit market, is charming, quaint, recently renovated and a really lovely space to hang out. Newtown has developed all around the theatre and the Newtown Mall is fabulous to wander around, the Newtown Workshop (old potato sheds) are filled with gorgeous shops, and there are some really good restaurants in the area.
And there is plenty of parking at the Newtown Mall. Super safe too!
Current shows are I SEE YOU and PLANT VIR MY A BOOM ANDRE, and there’s A NIGHT OF COMEDY AND MUSIC coming up.
Check out their website for bookings, have a drink in the bar beforehand, and enjoy a really lovely and inspiring South African evening. Ask your Johannesburg Guesthouse for help or advice, they know their theatre too!