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The Anti-Apartheid theatre

In 1976, at the height of the Apartheid regime, a remarkable theatre was inaugurated in Johannesburg. The Market Theatre challenged the regime by presenting itself as a place where spectators of all races could watch performances together. Those performances denounced apartheid. The idea was simple but powerful: culture can change society.

The theatre was established in a building that since 1913 had been home to an Indian fruit market. The performances gave a voice to the people who were being oppressed by Apartheid. At the same time, artistic quality was of great importance. After the fall of Apartheid, the theatre and its famous stage performances have been showered with awards. The Market Theatre has become a progressive cultural complex that hosts many different types of entertainment and performances.

Entertainment and resistance
Entertainment and resistance

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Fighting injustice

Shortly after its inauguration, the theatre became internationally known as 'The Theatre of the Struggle' – the struggle against Apartheid, that is. Founders Mannie Manim and Barney Simon were convinced that they could propel society in the right direction, and they have definitely made an important contribution. One of the most famous Anti-Apartheid plays that premiered here was 'Woza Albert!'. In the play the Messiah returns to Earth during the Apartheid regime, which tries to destroy him with an atom bomb. It became the most successful theatre play ever produced in South Africa. The theatre has also hosted many premiers of Athol Fugard's famous plays. Even today, Fugard is regarded as one of South Africa’s most important and most influential writers and directors. He garnered international acclaim with plays that fought the Apartheid regime.

“In ‘Woza Albert!’ the Messiah returns to earth during the Apartheid regime”

A performance in the Market Theatre

Entertainment with a conscience

The main objectives of the Market Theatre performances eventually became reality; over 2 decades ago Apartheid was formally abolished in South Africa. But the theatre’s mission was far from over. To this day, the Market Theatre offers society a critical mirror; to this end, the playhouse can draw from the best new talent that the country has to offer. Anyone who wishes to gain some insight into modern South Africa will find plenty of food for thought here.

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The main stage

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56 Margaret Mcingana Street

Photo credits

  • A performance in the Market Theatre: Ralf Held, Flickr
  • The main stage: Market Theatre