Six great music and theatre venues in Cape Town

It may be the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown until this weekend, but Cape Town’s music and theatre scene is marching to the beat of its own drum. 

There’s a lot in the mix. Think dinner while watching a show, a quiet, intimate theatre experience or grand scale dance music performances – it’s all happening in the Mother City. Add the Grahamstown shows taking a turn here after the festival, and the variety becomes truly great. 

Not to forget Cape Town’s unique cultural reputation: it’s the birthplace of ghoema (a distinctive style of music influenced by various world cultures). It’s home to the annual Minstrel Carnival, and it hosts the renowned Cape Town Jazz Festival. What’s more, South Africa’s oldest city and its people inspired the likes of Taliep Petersen and David Kramer to open legendary works such as District Six and Kat and the Kings. (Don’t miss Kramer’s new musical Orpheus in Africa at the Fugard this September.)

The list of the city’s theatre and music venues is extensive: from the impressive stalwarts and the small independents, to the excellent student offerings. Artscape, Theatre on the Bay, Beefcakes, the inimitable Alma Café, The Rosebank Theatre, Magnet, Galloway, The Masque, Kalk Bay … A difficult choice, but here’s my selection of six Cape Town venues showing great music and theatre right now. 

1. Cape Town Nu World Festival

Previously known as the Cape Town World Music Festival, this unique event takes place in the City Hall on July 17 and July 18 (Mandela Day Weekend). Themed Wild and Wise, the festival aspires to unite world cultures through a fusion of different styles of music.  Festival-goers can look forward to music legends collaborating with new talent, and a variety of performances taking place across three different stages. TED-style talks and fringe acts will also happen across the city.  Among many others, performers include Riky Rick, Simphiwe Dana, Kanda Bongo, Vukazithathe, Mookmba, Toby2shoes, Spoek Vs. Spoko and Elemotho. 


2. Alexander Bar upstairs

Downstairs at this popular city bar things are all plush and vintage. Old-style dial-telephones all around connect you with your fellow patrons, and also, most importantly, the bar. But upstairs is where another kind of action takes place: intimate, open season-theatre. Here anything goes: Music, drama, comedy, cabaret, you name it. Catch Milton Schorr, writer, producer and one-man performer of The Game: Shannon’s Tongue, until July 11.  Other highlights until the end of August include Life with Oli Booth, Mother City Sketch, Proboscis Prophesies, Dani and the Lion, Love and Prozac, James Grace’s Guitar Hero and a selection of new short plays: Anthology-Anti-Matter. 


3. The Fugard

Located in the historic Sacks Futeran building in District Six, the impressively restored Fugard is host to the best of South African theatre and music.  Catch the classic and multi-awarded musical West Side Story from July 23, and from July 28, Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo perform in Edward Albee’s translated classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Wie’s Bang vir Virginia Woolf?). Heart of Redness, the musical adaptation of Zakes Mda’s novel, is on in August. This collaboration between Magnet Theatre and UCT drama graduates with singers from Cape Town Opera is under the direction of Mark Fleishman. 


4. Die Boer

This dinner and theatre venue in Durbanville boasts near cult-status, and not only stages alternative Afrikaans acts (like Francois van Coke of Fokofpolisiekar-fame), but all kinds of music and theatre shows. See the legendary Joe Parker, the so-called father of stand-up comedy from July 15, the renowned Blues Broers, on for one night only on the 24th, and don’t miss a performance in August by Koos Kombuis, one of the front men of the 1980s Voëlvry-movement. 


5. Theatre Arts Admin Collective

Situated in the historic Methodist Church Hall in Observatory, the Theatre Arts Admin Collective is a space where local performers from all backgrounds and cultures get together to talk, experiment and perform. On July 12 Radikal Xpression presents Isidlo Sentliziyo: an African dinner with music and poetry. Featuring Nique-Flo Sithole, Ziphozakhe Hlobo and Palesa Sibiya, the show tackles different cultures’s preconceptions of love through the form of theatrical poetry. It also features music by the afro-soul musician, Aylo and the price of R300 per couple includes a hearty dinner. 

For tickets email: [email protected] 


6. The Baxter Theatre

This iconic performing arts venue – inspired by the Scandinavian National Romantic Movement and designed by Jack Barnett and Les Broer – opened in 1977 and, even during the tumultuous years of segregation, remained inclusive of all races. Theatre legend Barney Simon’s Born in the RSA is back from Grahamstown and on now until August 8. It marks the 20th anniversary of his death. Director Thoko Ntshinga, the play’s original 1985 director, and who also starred as Thenjiwe, is back to guide an entirely new cast for this special production: Faniswa Yisa, Emily Child, Francis Chouler, Roeline Daneel, Joanna Evans, Dobs Madotyeni and Zanele Radu. Also, don’t miss Sizwe Banzi is Dead on from August 19. Directed by legendary John Kani, it stars Mncedisi Shabangu and Atwanda Kani. 


Visit Hello Weekend (Hello Cape Town) to read more about their specials.

This content has been produced in partnership with Cape Town Tourism. Contents and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G’s editorial team.

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