Although smaller in size than its nearby and more renowned counterparts, the Market Theatre and Joburg Theatre the Alexander Theatre has a rich history in Johannesburg’s entertainment industry.
The 536-seat theatre in Braamfontein, which first opened its doors to the public in 1951, was named after the founder of the Johannesburg Repertory Players, Muriel Alexander. On its opening, the Johannesburg Repertory Players made the theatre their home, performing there for more than 30 years.
For years, multiracial crowds flocked to the theatre to watch its thought-provoking and sometimes politically themed productions. However, attendance started dwindling in the 1990s as rising crime and urban decay saw people steadily move out of the inner city. Many of the area’s residential flats were converted to student residences to meet increased demand for accommodation by Wits University students.
The Alexander Theatre finally closed its doors in 1997.
The theatre building remained abandoned for close to a decade, until property entrepreneur Adam Levy bought it in 2006 with the aim of restoring it as part of the Johannesburg inner-city renewal project. The renewal project refurbishes abandoned and dilapidated buildings in central Johannesburg in a bid to lure businesses back to the city centre. Encouraged by the number of buildings that were restored and turned into affordable residential complexes, as well as the big corporates returning to the inner city, Levy refurbished the Alexander Theatre, opening it to the public in 2007.
Today, the theatre hosts a variety of events, including music concerts, theatre productions, exhibitions, parties, press conferences and award ceremonies. With basement bar, hospitality room and a rooftop that offers views of the city, the Alexander Theatre is ideal for those looking for entertainment in the midst of Johannesburg’s bustling inner city.
Take Jan Smuts Avenue towards Braamfontein. After crossing Empire Road, take the first slip-road left on to Ameshoff Street. Turn right onto De Beer Street and left on to Stiemens Street.