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Soweto Theatre nearly ready
10 October 2011

Construction is coming to an end on the Soweto TheatreConstruction is nearing an end on the Soweto Theatre, which will form the linchpin of the planned Cultural Heart in Jabulani.

The first of its kind in Soweto – a multipurpose performing centreThe first of its kind in Soweto – a multipurpose performing centreAFTER two years of hard work and dedication, construction of the eagerly awaited Soweto Theatre is nearing an end.

Already most of the theatre is complete and ready for the official launch next year. When it finally opens, it will be the first of its kind in Soweto – a multipurpose performing centre used for theatre, music and dance productions, and choirs.

Talking about the official opening, the City’s director of arts culture and heritage, Steven Sack, says: “I promise you, we will have lots of drums, dance and theatre. We hope this is going to be the most successful theatre in the country and the world.”

Plans are to launch the theatre, on Bolani Road in Jabulani, on Africa Day, 25 May, in 2012. “However, we will have a lot of build-up programmes. We are planning to bring Dance Umbrella [to the theatre] in February and various acts.”

Sack explains that the main objective of the theatre is to produce performing arts in a wide variety of genres that will stimulate discussion on a variety of challenging issues, so actively contributing to the vision of transforming Johannesburg into a world-class African city.

Once it is open, it will create new opportunities for theatre groups and individuals in Soweto. Residents will also get quality entertainment on a regular basis, and there will be access to education and training in theatre and performing arts.
Interesting textures through the bright, interesting designInteresting textures through the bright, interesting design

The new structure will consist of a 420-seater main venue with an end stage, with wings, orchestra pit, fly tower and buttress. There will also be two smaller venues of 180 and 90 seats each, multilevel change rooms, storage rooms and a greenroom; and a covered outdoor space, which will serve as an informal performing area.

Architecturally, the building does not look like a traditional theatre complex. The design, say the architects, arises out of solidifying the existing pathways of people through the site when travelling between home and work.

It is a busy thoroughfare, with people crossing the site mainly from the east where the Jabulani Mall is, diagonally across to the train station.

In response, the building has two fortress walls that contain the three different theatres and all other ancillary spaces. It faces on to the existing amphitheatre and a tent covering the area between the entrances to both will form the main exterior foyer, or patlelo.

Outside foyer
In this outside space, informal performances during festivals can be hosted; it will also be a place for audiences to socialise during intervals, as well as offer show teasers.

At the opposite end, facing Nthati and Bolani streets, a colourful conjunction of volumes will appear like sculpture on the busy main road intersection.

The architects explain that the theatre is not a solid secret box but will expose all its contents: so from everywhere people will be able to see each of the theatre boxes, the main fly tower, the actors’ change rooms and the stores.

Clara Cruz Almeida of Afritects Architects says there was a need for a building that the community would take ownership of and feel invited to use and enjoy. This prompted the bright, unusual design.

“Each theatre box is clearly identifiable through its primary colours of yellow, blue and red, rendered through ceramic tiles. The quasi-moiré pattern effect is achieved through using two different tones in both matt and gloss; the resulting basket weave pattern glistens with the sun rays and glimmers at night as car lights reflect off it.
Creating a legacy projectCreating a legacy project

“This beguiling effect is intended to parallel an African dancer with its glimmering torso and flashes of body adornments,” she explains.

The ceramic tiles are designed to withstand the African sun for 100 years.

Cultural Heart
The theatre will form part of the Jabulani Business Node, which will be focused on a zone of public space called the Cultural Heart. It will include the refurbished Jabulani Amphitheatre, parks, public art and other public amenities.

The aim is for this zone to drive cultural and artistic excellence.

Included in the business node will be the 300-bed Jabulani Provincial Hospital and a residential area with three- to five-storey walk-up blocks of flats. Unit prices are expected to range between R300 000 and R500 000. A city improvement district (CID) will be established once the precinct is fully fledged.
There will be 25 000m² of retail, 10 000m² of office space and 4 000 mixed income residential units, 30 percent of which will be earmarked for low income earners.

Legacy project
The Soweto Theatre is one of the seven legacy projects of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, which were designed to ensure that Johannesburg and its residents continued to benefit from the football tournament long after it had finished.

Other legacy projects are: installing street furniture in the inner city; greening soccer fields; an indoor sports centre in Orlando; upgrading Diepkloof Hostel; greening Klipspruit River; and establishing Rea Vaya, Joburg’s Bus Rapid Transit facility.

The green light was given for work to begin on the theatre in 2009, when Amos Masondo, at the time Joburg’s mayor, turned the sod. Speaking on the day, he said that such a facility was necessary as it formed part of transforming Soweto from a dormitory into a normalised neighbourhood.

“We are striving to change Soweto into a sustainable human settlement that is known not just as a place where people come from but where people also go to.”

Related links:

About Soweto Theatre
Soweto Theatre
Soweto Theatre brings arts to the people
Sod turned for Soweto theatre



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Last Updated on 17 October 2011