BY BILLY SUTER
THEATRE practitioners and fans are breathing sighs of relief over the eased Coronavirus lockdown restrictions which now permit theatres to have a 50% venue capacity rather than a 50-patron limit. The national curfew being changed from midnight to 4am is also beneficial for theatre reopenings.
Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre franchises have already opened, or plan to soon, and will be keeping protocols firmly in place while limiting audiences to a maximum of half the respective venues’ seating, says Rhumbelow manager and entertainment co-ordinator Roland Stansell.
He already has a full programme of shows in place which can be accessed by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
“All is well with my heart and soul today. We can open our business, provide an income to all our employees and do what we love,” said Durban’s Cindy Webster, following Wednesday night’s government announcement of eased lockdown restrictions, effective from Monday.
Webster, who with husband Andrew Webster, owns and manages the Rockwood Theatre at Sibaya Casino, said plans were to reopen the venue on October 2, initially operating Fridays to Sundays only, with a seating capacity of 160 people. However, after consultation with Sibaya Casino, a decision has now been taken to instead open the theatre only after the national state of disaster has been lifted.
The first production was intended to be a music compilation show with an all-Durban cast, featuring highlights from productions staged at Rockwood over the past three years since it opened.
Cindy said times had been very tough due to lockdown but the Websters were expanding the business to offer both the theatre and be an events company. They were delighted that they had already been receiving enquiries for functions. Keep an eye on the venue’s new website at: http://www.rockwoodevents.com
Meanwhile, a show, The Ultimate Countdown, specially shot recently at the Rockwood Theatre, is available online for streaming until October 18, via digitv.co.za, at a cost of R50. Tickets are available at Quicket.co.za and artists appearing in the show will benefit from the funds raised.
“To support this fundraiser, go to https://qkt.io/zpkCyw and buy a ticket.
The new number for Rockwood Theatre queries is 062 453 9237.
Meanwhile, the Barnyard Theatre franchises have also taken a heavy knock over the past few months, with one of the six venues remaining in the country already having been forced to close. It is the Rivonia Barnyard at Sunninghill in Johannesburg.
“The landlord took on a new tenant, a store, and the venue closed some time back,” said the owner of the theatre group, Louis Moller, pointing out that the fate of the Silverstar Barnyard in West Rand and the Barnyard at Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Pretoria remain uncertain.
Good news was that Durban’s Barnyard Theatre at Suncoast Casino was considered the most popular in the franchise, said Moller, and would be the first to reopen – probably early in November. The Emperors Palace Barnyard in Johannesburg and Tyger Valley Barnyard in Centre in Bellville were likely to reopen a few weeks after that, he said.
“We are busy finalising casts and shows now and the Durban venue is top priority. We will put all the information on our website as soon as it becomes available,” Moller explained, adding that he was hoping, in increasingly tough financial times and with pandemic fears still rife, that theatregoers would return to lend support.
“It has to be a slowly-slowly approach before we consider reopening all the theatres as we need to make this work,” he added.
Barnyard Theatre shows would initially run only a few days a week and would need to follow a more simplistic, lean concept, with increased emphasis on using local singers and musicians in each city, with only a few exceptions, he said.