260-seat venue to be named after East London-born legend Gibson Kente
SCRAPING plastic chairs and craning necks are to become a thing of the past for audiences at Hudson Park High School, which is transforming its old school hall into a fully-fledged professional theatre.
The brainchild of the school’s head of drama, Pierre Perold, the 260-seat amphitheatre will be named after late East London-born playwright, composer, director and producer Gibson Kente when it opens with one of his plays in the first term of next year.
“I always had a dream of having a permanent theatre at the school. School halls never feel like a theatre – people scrape back their chairs and can’t see the stage properly, but proper theatres are expensive to hire,” said Perold.
He insisted the seating be fashioned in semi-circular amphitheatre style for perfect acoustics. “It is like an ancient Greek amphitheatre and when you are on stage it sounds like you have a microphone.”
His dream was realised when he secured R750 000 funding from Lotto to teach drama to Hudson Park’s sister school Bhongolethu Secondary School in Kwelerha.
“Part of the funding request was to build a theatre in our school and to afford the Bhongolethu pupils to perform in front of an audience,” said Perold, who gives the rural school pupils workshops every week.
“We fetch them and drop them off after their workshops and they are so appreciative and some have phenomenal talent.
“Hopefully this will become a cultural centre where pupils from disadvantaged schools will have a platform to show their talents.”
Sitting just under the ceiling on the top rung of the theatre, Perold said once the seating was covered in carpeting and the old blue velvet stage curtains were removed, the theatre would receive an extended thrust stage and everything would be painted black.
“It will give people a sense of excitement. We are waiting to see how much money will be left over for the lights and sound, but we may have to raise more funding because half the lights don’t work and the circuit is faulty.”
While the amphitheatre takes up just half the hall, the space appears larger thanks to the use of vertical space. And, while the rest of the hall will still be used for smaller school functions and badminton, it will double up as a foyer for the Gibson Kente Theatre. The current hall gallery will become Perold’s classroom.
“The school now has the enormous Centenary Hall for big functions like Founder’s Day so the Crewe Hall was the perfect space for the theatre,” he explained.
The dedicated drama teacher has been determined to pay tribute to Kente and this week received the green light from the late playwright’s son to memorialise the man who was known as “Mr Showbiz” and “Bra Gib” and who once trained Brenda Fassie.
“He invented the township musical and his plays toured extensively. They were about the injustices of apartheid and were a true form of protest theatre.”
Perold is fleshing out Kente’s only published play Too Late! which will be performed at the opening of the theatre and which will include cast members from Bhongolethu.
“On opening night we will invite Lotto and Gibson Kente’s family members. I am so excited.
“This is going to be a real, magical theatre.” —