260-seat venue to be named af­ter East London-born leg­end Gib­son Kente

Daily Dispatch - - News - By BAR­BARA HOL­LANDS

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.” —

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