Athol Fugard Theatre Closes Down Permanently

Cape Town's Athol Fugard Theatre has shut down after suffering a financial blow due to the 1 year of lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This has left artists and those who enjoy theatre gutted with many looking towards the lack of funding from the South African government as the reason why the arts industry is suffering financially.

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Cape Town's Athol Fugard Theatre has shut down after suffering a financial blow due to the 1 year of lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This has left artists and those who enjoy theatre gutted with many blaming the closure of the theatre with many looking towards the lack of funding from the South African government as the reason why the arts industry is suffering financially. 

On 16 March, founder and benefactor of the Fugard Theatre, Eric Abraham announced that the theatre will not be reopening after its closure last year when lockdown began. 

"It is with great regret and sadness that I have to confirm that The Fugard Theatre will close permanently with immediate effect. We are not persuaded that it will be Covid safe of financially viable to reopen as a theatre in the foreseeable future," the statement read. 

The theatre which was named after the internationally-acclaimed playwright, Athol Fugard has been in existence since 2010. Now that it has closed its doors the facility will be handed back to the board of the District Six Museum, the owner of the building. 

The District Six Museum has also been struggling financially and losing one of its big streams of income is a great blow. 

District Six Museum Board Chair Siraj Desai said that they are now tasked with trying to find a new tenant for the Fugard Theatre which he says may be difficult but that there have been talks with international parties. 

Theatre legend David Kramer who directed 6 plays at the Athol Fugard Theatre says that its closure is a huge loss to the industry and that it is very disheartening. 

Artscape Theatre CEO Marlene Le Roux says that the closure of the Fugard Theatre affects the Arstcape as well. 

"The Fugard and Artscape, we had a partnership. All their big productions like West End was staged at Artscape, so we're also losing out. If one theatre close, another one will suffer," she said. 

Artists around South Africa have been begging the government to do more to help their sector while arts and culture venues in the country are struggling to stay afloat during the lockdown. 

Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais has said that an urgent conversation needs to happen with the government and other stakeholders to find ways to ensure that the sector and those who depend on it are supported in a sustainable manner. 

After the permanent closure of the Fugard Theatre and the temporary closure of the Apartheid Museum, the EFF has said in a statement that: 

“The entire creative industry has been abandoned by national government, with artists periodically talking to the streets and occupying prominent administrative buildings, demanding state intervention as their livelihoods collapse in the face of COVID-19.”

The EFF has said that the lack of help from the ANC government in sustaining these institutions "represents a government that has no regard for history and culture."

 

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