……BY BILLY SUTER…..
THE Durban theatre scene has been dealt a big blow – The Rockwood Theatre, the three-tier showband venue at Sibaya Casino, near Umhlanga, has closed for good, while the future of that casino’s large, kraal-shaped iZulu Theatre remains uncertain.
On a brighter note, Suncoast Casino’s Barnyard Theatre is scheduled to reopen with an ’80s tribute show on March 13, now that Covid-19 restrictions have dropped to Level 1. All Rhumbelow Theatre franchises are now also operating.
The owner-managers of The Rockwood, Andrew and Cindy Webster, said they were instructed in January to vacate the theatre which they opened late in 2017. It was a sister theatre to The Rockwood Theatre in Pretoria, which closed in August last year.
The Sibaya Casino decision to terminate the Websters’ lease agreement was as a result of them being in debt to the casino pre-Covid and for about a year, Sibaya Casino marketing manager, Robbie Naidoo, confirmed.
“We haven’t traded for 12 months due to Covid-19 and could not keep up with payments. Our lease agreement was terminated due to breach of contact, for non-payment of rentals and levies,” explained Cindy Webster.
An effort by the Websters to try to reopen The Rockwood in October last year, when lockdown restrictions briefly enabled this, did not happen as Sibaya Casino had opted, at that time, to put the brakes on all promotional events and theatre entertainment at the casino. This firm decision was taken, said Naidoo, because at that time KwaZulu-Natal was being looked on as a Covid-19 hot spot, a second wave of infections was being predicted and there were concerns over a new variant of the virus.
The casino halted theatre and promotional events until Level 0, which is the level at which the state of disaster is lifted, Naidoo said, adding that there had been no change in that directive since.
The fate of the venue that accommodated The Rockwood, as well as the future of the casino’s iZulu Theatre, both of which have been dark since late-March last year, have still to be decided.
Andrew and Cindy Webster, both always very hands-on at the theatre, said they were extremely sad that they had to close the curtains on The Rockwood.
Getting back to The Barnyard… ’80s Rewind is scheduled to run at the Suncoast Casino venue from March 13 until May 30, with seating at 50% capacity (as per current lockdown restrictions) and with all lockdown protocols in place. Patrons who had booked for shows over lockdown have been advised they may now redeem credit notes.
The 10-member cast of ’80s Rewind has only one non-Durbanite — singer Ray Oberholzer. Other vocalists are Kyle Matthews, Rory Booth, Savanah de Beer and Kerry Cherry, while Calli Thomson is on musical direction and keyboards, Dylan van der Linde is on drums, his wife Kirsty van der Linde is on sax, Jason Kylen is on guitar (alternating some nights with Barry Thomson) and Bongani Sokhela handles bass.
Performances will be at 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays, with some 2pm Sunday shows. Tickets for all performances cost R195 each.