Incorporating the Cape Town Repertory Theatre Society
1948 – 2018
After the end of WWII the population in Pinelands increased dramatically, for obvious reasons! The St Stephens Church needed more space to accommodate their flourishing congregation. They borrowed money from the diocese to build the Victory Hall. Madge Harding, the Rev. Shapter AND some enthusiastic parishioners performed concerts, raising funds to repay the loan. The enthusiasm grew and culminated in the formation of the St Stephens Pinelands Repertory Society in 1948. Forever after informally known as ‘The Reps’.
Until the 1970’s no less than 3 and often as many as 5 productions annually were staged in the Victory Hall. All funds raised from these productions went back to the Church – to pay off the loan and to improve the facility, transforming it into a fine little theatre – with stage, lighting, sound, seating and storage space for props, flats and costumes.
Pantos were introduced, with Geoff Tansley writing and directing them. These became a must at Christmas time for all Pinelands families. The productions were well supported and only experienced a hiccup when television was introduced in the mid-seventies.
In 1986 the Society’s champion, the Rev. Michael Norman retired. By now, many members of ‘The Reps’ were not members of the Church and the latter decided the time had come to part company. After 39 years, ‘The Reps’ were given six months notice.
Homeless and with bank balance of R600, a collection of costumes and a now inappropriate name, ‘The Reps’ became nomads. The name was changed to The Pinelands Repertory Society, and later simply to Pinelands Players. Performing in schools, clubs and the town hall, the shows were good but the venues uninspiring for audiences. Disaster struck when the rondavels we hired to house our costumes and props were continually broken into and vandals set fire to several of them. We had to start from scratch.
In 1991, the Committee called a special meeting and put forward the suggestion that we pull down the curtain permanently and give what assets we had to charity. However, the 40 members present took a decision that we should go out with a bang and not a whimper. The following year, every penny was put into a production of ‘South Pacific’ at the Little Theatre. It was a turning point for our country as Nelson Mandela was released, and on a smaller scale, a minor turning point for our little Society. The show was successful, we made a good profit, enough to justify our existence.
Many fine, award-winning musicals followed at the Little Theatre. But we were very sad to move out of Pinelands. There just wasn’t – and isn’t a stage in Pinelands that is free for 21 days a year. But we had ‘found’ the Little Theatre in Orange Street. A traditional theatre, steeped in history. With plenty of secure parking and very accommodating management, it was and still is, ideal.
Strangely, in theatrical terms, the Reps had come full circle; The Little Theatre, was where the Cape Town Reps, whose name we still incorporate, had staged their productions for 33 years from the early 1920’s. Although staging our main annual production out of Pinelands has been a necessity, The Reps are still strongly rooted in Pinelands and our clubhouse where we meet and rehearse is here.
Nine ‘straight’ plays and musicals had been staged since leaving the church. Few of the straight plays drew public support, despite the high standard of theatre. When in 2001 Fugard’s ‘People Are Living There’ was performed to great critical acclaim and meager audiences, it was decided that we could no longer continue make money on musicals in order to produce plays which were financial disasters. We decided to stage Candlelight Supper Theatre productions in Pinelands and continue our annual musicals. The annual Candlelight suppers, performed at the Town Hall, have proved to be extremely popular.
As we enter our 70th year, Pinelands Players are determined to put every effort into persuading the community of Pinelands to get involved in theatre. Whether working backstage or ‘treading the boards’, it is undoubtedly one of the most satisfyingly fun hobbies, costing little more than enjoyable time spent with great people.