The Maynardville Open-Air Theatre is an experience unlike any other. It is a 700 seater outdoor theatre situated in Maynardville Park in the heart of the historical Chelsea Village in Wynberg and every year in Summer, Shakespeare’s plays and ballets are performed there. There is something magical about entertainment beneath the night sky, an auditorium surrounded by trees and bamboo and watching bats fly across the stage throughout the performance.
Its history dates back to the mid 1950’s and has seen countless productions of Shakespeare’s work and various ballets grace its stage over the years. (You can read the full history here).
The Maynardville Open-Air Theatre was a huge part of my childhood. My mom began attending the yearly productions at the theatre at a very young age, so she only saw it fit that I did the same. So from the age of about 12, I was taken to the yearly Shakespeare (and ballet) and I absolutely loved it.
It is however, an open-air theatre and it does require some preparation and organisation to ensure you are as conformable as you can be. The years of attending the shows have taught me lessons, tips and tricks on just how to get the most out of the experience.
TIP #1: Picnic
It is tradition to bring a picnic to enjoy in the park before the show starts. Surrounded by green grass, trees and the large body of water in the park, it is a gorgeous setting to watch the sun go down and enjoy delicious snacks with friends before the show. Should you not want to pack your own, you could always eat at one of the restaurants in Wolfe Street (Four & Twenty Cafe & Deli, Erawan or Caffe Verdi).
Street parking manned by car guards is available around the theatre. The earlier you arrive, the better parking you’ll get. Otherwise, Uber is always a good option.
TIP #3: Layers
Layers are your best friend at the Open-Air Theatre. You may not think or realise it’s cold because it’s Cape Town in Summer and it was 30 degrees during the day, but trust me, you’ll be well into Act Two and all of a sudden, you’ll go from fine to freezing in a very short space of time. So take that winter jacket that’s sitting in the back of your cupboard and wear that thermal vest you bought for that camping trip last year. I also recommend gloves, a hat, as well as a blanket to put around your legs.
TIP #4: Footwear
DO NOT WEAR HEELS: The auditorium is on a slight slope and is just grass and sand (GREAT for sight lines and aesthetic, BAD for heels).
WEAR SOCKS AND CLOSED SHOES: This is partially related to tip #3. Closed shoes and socks ensure your feet will be toasty and warm.
TIP#5: Bring a Pillow
I love and have always loved this venue, but the seating in the theatre is ghastly. The chairs are made of a hard plastic, which is fine for a show that is an hour long but not fine for one that is +2 hours in length. Bringing a pillow along saves your coccyx and back from hours of pain and discomfort, and also ensures the warmth of your derriere for the duration of the show.
TIP #6: Bring Cash
At the theatre you can buy tea, coffee, delicious hot chocolate and snacks at interval. Bring cash because there are no card facilities. Note: no alcohol is sold at the venue.
TIP #7: Bring Theatre-Friendly Snacks
I love being able to snack during a show, and at Maynardville you can! However, don’t be the idiot who whips out a giant packet of chips and disturbs everyone around you, rather, decant said chips into noise friendly ziplock bags and you’ll be able to avoid any vitriol and hatred from the people around you.
Now that I have given you the tools, go forth and enjoy the 2017 Shakespeare Season at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre!
Find it on Google Maps.
The two shows in the 2017 season are:
‘Twelfth Night’ presented by Artscape in association with the Maynardville Theatre Trust and directed by Geoffrey Highland which runs Monday to Saturday until the 25th of February 2017. More information and tickets are available here.
The ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’ presented by Cape Town City Ballet and choreographed by Robin van Wyk which runs every Sunday night until the 26th of February 2017. More information and tickets are available here.