Civic Theatre tour

Civic Theatre foyer Civic Theatre inside Civic Theatre outside

The Civic Theatre in Braamfontein was built in 1962, and functioned for many years as a highbrow venue for ballet, opera, and sophisticated theatrical productions. It underwent something of a decline during the 1980s, and was closed for upgrading in 1987. When the theatre was re-opened in 1992, its rebirth mirrored some of the lively political changes in the country (such as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, and the preparations for the first democratic elections). The theatre re-opened with a performance of Harlem dance theatre, which is quite a contrast from the original opening performance by Mimi Coertse.

The theatre complex comprises three venues. The Nelson Mandela Theatre (the only one in the world with that name) is regarded as the most technically advanced in the southern hemisphere, and is the largest in the complex (although not the largest in the country), with a seating capacity of 1061 people, and a stage area of 400 square metres. The Tesson Theatre can seat 251 people, and has a stage area of 72 square metres. The People's Theatre - also known as the Children's Theatre because children's plays are produced here - can seat 176 people.

The 40-year-old Johannesburg Civic Theatre has a glamorous front, with facilities for private dining, corporate functions, business meetings, and office parties. It has a curio shop, Internet cafe, coffee shop, box office, and a retail environment called Times Square.

Tours of the building offer a look at what happens backstage. Everything behind the scenes is computer operated. The stage is made up of five elevators, with three storeys underneath to allow the elevators to move up and down. Sound effects are also computer generated. The tour reveals a lot of theatrical tricks, and also shows some of the outfits and masks.

Interior photographs, facts, and figures courtesy of Johannesburg News Agency, operated by BIG Media, 011-484-1400,

Civic Theatre sign

Address: Loveday Street (continuation of Rissik Street), Braamfontein
Hours: Monday to Friday: during working hours
Phone: 011-877-6831 or 083-324-2543 (Justine Lipson, House Manager)
Phone (theatre): 011-877-6800
Cost: The tour of the building costs R10 per person, and bookings ought to be confirmed one week in advance.
Refreshments: Available for purchase

Copyright © 2002-2003, Rodney Jones,, Randburg, South Africa (Last updated on 21 January 2003)