Johannesburg’s Civic Theatre was built by the then city council in 1962, creating a high-profile landmark on the top of the Braamfontein hill. The building was given a magnificent face-lift in the late ‘80s, turning it into one of the most technically proficient theatres in the southern hemisphere.
In the year 2000 - when theatres across the country were considered to be both creatively and financially moribund - the city council decided to corporatise the operating company of theatre, which is now a Municipal Entity of the City of Joburg.
The Johannesburg Civic Theatre (Pty) Ltd was given a Board of Directors, chaired by Cas Coovadia, Managing Director of The Banking Association of South Africa - and Bernard Jay, veteran UK born theatre producer and administrator who had relocated to South Africa in 1993, was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the company.
Now in its 11th year as the operating company, “the Civic” - which morphed into the more street-wise and accessible Joburg Theatre in 2009 - has become one of the acknowledged success stories of Joburg City’s corporatisation policy. Still under the leadership of Bernard Jay, the complex’ largest auditorium, re-named The Nelson Mandela Theatre, regularly sees over 75% of capacity audiences and remains open a minimum of fifty weeks in each year.
In the past decade, The Mandela at Joburg Theatre has hosted many hit shows, including William Kentridge’s acclaimed interpretation of Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE, the West End and Broadway musicals WE WILL ROCK YOU, CHICAGO, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE and FOOTLOOSE and top-of-the-line global touring shows, such as LE GRAND CIRQUE, LORD OF THE DANCE and SPIRIT OF THE DANCE.
Joburg Theatre’s annual festive season pantomime productions, written and directed by Janice Honeyman, have become the most popular highlight of South Africa’s theatrical calendar.
Joburg Theatre is also permanent home to The South African Ballet Theatre, Jill Girard and Keith Smith’s Peoples Theatre Company - performing throughout the year to children between the ages of 3 and 15 - and one of the country’s most respected community development projects in the arts, the tiny ‘black-box’ theatre known as space.com.