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Artscape has come a long way in 50 years

Commenting on the opening of his new ballet, Ingoma, on the 50th birthday of Artscape, Mthuthuzeli November said: “50 years ago, the story was different in South African theatres. I would not be where I am today without all those who spent their lives fighting to make a better future for us all.

“This work feels almost like a thank-you note to them.”

Ingoma was commissioned by Cassa Pancho for Ballet Black in London, a company November joined after wowing South African audiences when he danced under the direction of Debbie Turner at the Cape Dance Company up until 2017.

Ingoma has collected prestigious awards, including the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production and Best Dance Production at the Black British Theatre Awards following its premiere in 2019 at the Barbican Theatre and run at the Lindbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House.

Marlene le Roux and Debbie Turner

Being performed as part of the celebration of this important theatre’s birthday is a different kind of special, which Cape Town-born November says is a honour.

Artscape started life as the Nico Malan, named after the then National Party’s administrator of the Cape Province, with its first performance on May 19 1971.

In 1975, ‘The Nico’ became the first South African theatre where all races were allowed to watch performances together, thanks to a permit system of the Apartheid government.

The theatre was renamed Artscape in 2001. It is now in the very capable hands of CEO Marlene le Roux, best described by Debbie Turner, now Cape Town City Ballet’s CEO, as “a dynamo”.

The audience on opening night was left with no doubt about Le Roux’s dynamo status after she finished her welcome speech with renditions of Happy Birthday in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa on stage before the show opened.

She described Ingoma’s performance on this special night: “Full of originality, energy, passion and emotion. A historic and fitting performance for the 50-year celebration!”


A great bonus for anyone visiting Artscape during its 50th celebrations is the costume exhibition of so many sensational and outrageous designs and outfits from productions dating back to 1971.

The exhibition in the Opera House foyer is open to the public and free of charge.

Visitors get to admire the incredible workmanship of the wardrobe teams.

The sketches and detailed drawings give a taste of the drama and creative genius behind the scenes in the opera, operetta, drama, ballet, musicals and jazzart.

With thanks to @MichelleCarey69 @TikTok for the video, left.

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