The Fugard Theatre was part of the five historic warehouse buildings that make up the precinct and was situated on half a city block bounded by Buitenkant, Caledon and Harrington Streets in District Six, Cape Town, which the District Six Museum owns. The building has a long history as textile and soft goods supplier Sacks Futeran & Co, home to many generations of tailors and seamstresses from District Six. The five interconnected buildings combine the nineteenth and early twentieth-century warehouses with a portion of an old gothic-style church at its centre. Rennie Scurr Adendorff Architects designed the reimagining of this historic space. For this design, The Fugard Theatre received a Bronze Loerie Award for Three Dimensional & Environmental Design – Architecture in 2011.
Eric Abraham discovered, by chance, that the venue was available and committed to underwriting the entire theatre construction, naming it after Athol Fugard. Architect Shaun Adendorff and various consultants, including director Mark Dornford-May and Lighting Designer Mannie Mannim, developed the theatre’s design. Rennie Scurr Adendorff Architects drew up the concept and plans for and supervised the sensitive renovation of the National Heritage-listed neo-Gothic Congregational Church Hall and two former warehouses, including the Sacks Futeran building, into a functioning theatre and rehearsal space. Construction started in September 2009 and was executed by R&N Contractors under the leadership of Construction Manager Peter Truter with structural Engineering by Gadomski Associates, Mechanical Engineering by Basil Nair and Associates and Electrical Engineering by 4em.
The main drive behind the design was to transform the existing spaces but to conserve and reuse as much of the building as possible. This was achieved by recycling salvaged material like floorboards and ensuring that the memory and patina of the building were retained and kept visible wherever possible.
Architect Shaun Adendorff, from Rennie Scurr Adendorff, speaks about the journey of designing and building The Fugard Theatre.
Drag the slider left and right to see the before and after
The Fugard Main Theatre was constructed from the old 1950s Sacks Futeran Building and was the larger of the 2 theatre spaces. Initially comprised of bench seating in 2010 but those were later replaced with single theatre seats in 2011. The main hosted larger scale productions as well as a state-of-the-art cinema (Bioscope).
Originally part of the church hall it was converted into a rehearsal space before finally being turned into a smaller theatre space. The raked seating and stage were designed to be able to be removed if the room needed to be emptied. This happened most recently with the opening of the Kinky Lounge which was an activation space for the South African Premiere of Kinky Boots, the musical.
The Fugard foyer was the entrance to the theatre which was located on Caledon Street. It was the central gathering point for patrons ad housed the famous Fugard Bar as well as Coffee Bar. The foyer saw many opening nights, as well as events ad, and was well known as a space for Cape Towns artists to gather. Iris Bolton, the Fugard’s Front of House Manager, along with the dedicated Bar Staff, created welcoming and memorable visits for all who walked through the Fugard doors.
The Fugard roof top boasted 180-degree views of Table Mountain as well as the city of Cape Town. At first, it was a flat concrete viewing deck but it morphed over time to include a stretch tent, then a green astroturf and finally a portable champagne bar. Many beautiful summer evenings were enjoyed by patrons before and after shows and many champagne glasses were sacrificed to surprise gusts of the iconic Cape Town South Easter wind.
The large metal door one walks through before entering the theatre from the foyer is one of the original fire doors. There are several others throughout the building.