City Guide: Cape Town

A guide to Cape Town written by RADAR 2013 playwright Amy Jephta (Free Falling Bird).

Best place to see new plays, new work and why…

Alexander Bar Upstairs a tiny, 60 seater theatre space above an always-busy bar. They showcase new work, work in progress, any and all genres, shows rotate nightly and rarely run for more than a week. With a well timed visit you can most likely see something different every night. It’s also one of the only venues that present readings of new writing at a monthly event called PlayThings, so you can follow pieces from start to finish. And the owner is a playwright.

alexander bar

Best place to have a coffee and write

Cape Town has a glut of coffee shops and creative spaces, but my favourite is Field Office in Woodstock. Great, strong coffee, free wifi, and plenty of open space and plug points. It’s mostly filled with freelancers and creative types, and usually doesn’t get too loud or crowded. It’s good for a long day of writing, in summer or winter, with few disturbances.

The playwriting/theatre/artistic community in Cape Town is…

Resourceful. They can make anything work – limited space, impossible time, no money, theatre will still happen.

Where to go to get inspired

Avoid indoor shopping malls and stay outside for as long as possible. Cape Town has great urban parks, beachside promenade walks, mountains and sea, pretty much everything when it comes to natural beauty. The Sea Point promenade is great for early morning or late afternoon walks, a meander right next to the ocean will take you about an hour. The Company’s Gardens is a lush park right in the middle of the city, a great place to take a stroll or lie flat on your back and stare at the sky. It’s also within spitting distance of the National Gallery and the South African national museum.

New Plays from Cape Town are…

Sprouting up everywhere, but they rarely get outside the country because only a trickle of plays get published annually. So if you want to read new plays from Cape Town, get in touch with individual writers or companies and ask them to send you scripts on email.

Some new plays from Cape Town are: The View, seen at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. Civil Parting by Nicholas Spagnoletti, seen at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. The Kingmakers by Louis Viljoen, which is coming soon. And my play, All Who Pass, being developed by the Royal Court.

Three Cape Town Essentials

  1. There are plenty of hikes and trails to choose from around the Cape mountains, accommodating all fitness levels. They’re perfect for early risers. Aim to start at the crack of dawn to avoid the midday sun.
  2. Some of the best and most exciting South African jazz happens in Cape Town. Tiny venues like Straight No Chaser and The Crypt are run entirely by musicians, and there’s a gig pretty much every night.
  3. Capetonians are huge fans of Saturday and Sunday morning brunch. Everyone sleeps in and the city only gets going at around 10am on a weekend. Outdoor cafes are great for weekend laziness.


History of Cape Town theatre, highlight

There have been plenty, but in recent history one of my personal favourites was Rooiland, an Afrikaans play set inside South Africa’s prison system, about the infamous numbers gang. The performances haunted me for days after.

Writers to read 

Playwrights Napo Masheane, Ashraf Johaardien, Omphile Molusi.

Out of Town 

A drive to Simonstown, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg takes about 45 minutes from the city centre and feels like a different world. Or make a day out of wine tasting in Stellenbosch and Franschoek.

An image that represents Cape Town for you.

Of course it has to include the mountain. This is what living in Cape Town feels like to me, most of the time. The mountain grounds everything and it’s impossible not to feel dwarfed by it, and also centred by it. It’s comforting to see something bigger, older, more important than you, whenever you happen to gaze up.

Cape Town- image

Read more from our City Guide series here.