About The Theatre

Our History

About Pe Opera House

The Port Elizabeth Opera House and Barn Theatre are located halfway down John Kani Road, Central, was opened in 1892 and was proclaimed a national monument in 1980. The Port Elizabeth Opera House and Barn Theatre is the main venue for dramatic productions and shows in the Eastern Cape and is the only surviving example of a Victorian Theatre in Africa.

A brief history of The Opera House in Port Elizabeth

The Opera House is the oldest running theatre on the continent of Africa and one of the oldest running in the Southern Hemisphere. This special piece of World History is right here in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. Built in 1892, it preceded the railway line by two years. It took 16 more years before artificial lighting - in the form of Gas - came to The Opera House.

The building was run candles and limelight during this period. When the theatre opened it was recognised as "The finest theatre in all the World" according to press reports. This is testament to the fact that we can still use the building today. In fact we are not only the oldest theatre in Africa, but also the only Victorian Theatre left on the continent. This means that architecture, if it disappears, will be lost to the children of Africa forever.

This very special place - the home of John Kani, Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona, Nomhle Nkonyeni, Marlene Pieterse, Ian von Mermety, Thoko Ntshinga, and Elizabeth Connell (international soprano), and many, many other famous people. This institution has history and very few institutions can claim that. Another interesting fact about the history is that The Opera House is built on the site of an old gallows.

Public hangings took place on this ground before the theatre was erected. So we have had many sightings of ghosts and spooks. Generally no one wishes to be the last person to leave at night as experienced in the past. The are two theatres in the building, The Barn which is a cabaret venue and the Main Stage which was built for ballet, opera and musicals.

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