Market Theatre Laboratory

The Market Theatre Laboratory was the brainchild of Barney Simon, co-founder of the Market Theatre. The idea for the ‘Lab’ was a response to the needs of the community theatre sector for skills training as well as to provide a seedbed for the creation of new South African plays. John Kani, then Associate Artistic Director of the Market Theatre, raised money from the Rockefeller Foundation to set up the Lab.

"I had a long held desire to create a platform in South Africa for young people who had fallen through the cracks of apartheid and who had been victims of Bantu education to find their voice to speak out about issues that concerned them and their communities - and to give them the skills to do this." Dr John Kani

The Lab opened in October 1989 in a small warehouse under the highway in Goch Street, Newtown. Professional tutors ran practical as well as theoretical courses for aspiring actors. The Lab quickly became a platform for young artists to meet and engage with creative challenges first in apartheid South Africa and later under the new democracy.

With the success of the Drama School, other programmes were initiated. The National Fieldwork Programme was launched to give professional guidance to community theatre groups. Its success is evident in the annual Community Theatre and Zwakala Festivals which showcase performances from around the country and which have unearthed hidden talents.

Despite financial struggles, a tenacious team has made this humble institution a centre of excellence and artistic excellence. Scores of Lab graduates are working in the theatre industry as actors, writers and directors, and many are household names in South Africa today.

"We go where no-one ever goes and we see stars before they make tabloid news." Matjamela Motloung, director of the Market Theatre Laboratory, 2010.

Did You Know?

Did you know that the old workers’ compound which housed black workers under very poor conditions is now a museum about migrant labour?