Call for a relook at funding for artists

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The Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town says there is a need to relook the funding for the Arts industry. It was reacting to the closure of the iconic Fugard Theatre in District Six earlier this week due to the impact of COVID-19.

Fugard Theatre benefactor, Eric Abraham, said they were not convinced that the theatre could be COVID-19 safe and financially stable again.

CEO of Artscape, Marlene Le Roux, says the pandemic and its associated lockdowns have decimated the arts industry.

“Fugard very iconic, and Artscape because we have an interest in Fugard because all the productions like the West Side Story. So it is about young people, it is about emerging artists that could travel the world because of the Fugard. For the industry as a whole, if one theatre closes it has an effect on another theatre, we need to relook at the funding for the artists,” says Le Roux.

The Fugard Theatre was named in honour of one of South Africa’s most acclaimed and renowned international playwright, Athol Fugard. All of Athol Fugard’s recent plays had their premieres in the theatre.

Plays showcased at the theatre 

The 320-seater playhouse opened its doors and lifted its curtains in March 2010. Over the past decade, it has showcased many of the best plays and musicals from all over the world including with international stars such as Sir Ian McKellen and the late Alan Rickman, either playing at or visiting the preferred venue on special occasions during its lifetime.

The world-renowned Rickman, who died about four years ago, had only the best to say about the Fugard.

“I am an enormous admirer of this company, their enormous work, I’ve seen pretty much everything they have done, it’s one of those things that seem shouldn’t have been there but it’s there,” said Rickman.

Past productions also include Statements After An Arrest Under The Immorality Act, a new production of a Fugard classic. It was a play that shined the spotlight on the cruelty of apartheid South Africa’s law which prohibited interracial romance.

It is here that many landmark productions, such as the musicals King Kong and Kat and the Kings were produced. The theatre was also home to many of theatre legends, including David Kramer’s productions.

The building is owned by the District Six Museum. Acting director, Chrischene Julius, says it is still unclear how it will be used in the future.

“With us, it’s very sad that eh theatre has taken a decision to close down, and obviously done that having thought through the decision. From our side, it’s going to be almost the end of the era in this part of the city because Fugard is well established as one of the cultural spots in Cape Town,” says Julius.