The Fugard theatre entrance in Cape Town.

South Africa's Fugard Theatre Permanently Closes Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

John Kani and more South African artists have sent their tributes to the Fugard theatre which has announced that it has shut its doors permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cape Town's Furgard theatre has reportedly announced this past Tuesday that it has decided to permanently close the theatre. This follows a year-long closure of all activities in the theatre under South Africa's COVID-19 regulations. The news has South African thespians and loyal theatre attendees lamenting the loss of one of South Africa's most famous theatres. Theatre veteran actor and Black Panther star, John Kani, jazz musician Zoe Modiga, spoken word artist Lebogang Mashile and television actress Masasa Mbangeni are just some the many artists that shared their sadness on hearing the news.

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According to EWN, Eric Abraham who is the founder of the Fugard theatre, shared the announcement in a public statement which read:

"We are not persuaded that it will be COVID safe or financially viable to reopen as a theatre in the foreseeable future. The theatre will be handed back to the owner of the freehold of the building- the board of The District 6 Museum as a working theatre and we hope that they will be able to use it for the benefit of the Museum and the District 6 community."

The theatre closed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa and launched the digital platform, "The Fugard At Home" shortly afterwards. The initiative streamed classic plays free of charge for a whole month between June and July 2020. However the 320 seat theatre that is housed by The District 6 Museum had to let go of majority its employees as the waves of COVID-19 persisted, this according to News24. The Fugard theatre was also known for hosting multicultural arts events such as the annual Open Book Fest which was an internationally recognised literature festival.

The Fugard theatre was an homage to the famous actor, director and playwright Athol Fugard. He was known for his political plays such as Sizwe Banzi is Dead, Master Harold and the Boys, The Island and Tsotsi which was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie. Fugard's work was political and refused to cater only to the "white gaze" with the narrative content of his plays and selection of actors.

The closure of the Fugard theatre is admittedly felt by all South Africans. The Market Theatre has urged the public to buy tickets for shows as the South African arts sectors are struggling across the board due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent misappropriation of COVID-19 relief funds targeted for the arts and culture sector.

Here are a few responses on the Fugard theatre's permanent closure.

Photo: Aisha Asamany

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