Foxwood House is not really a theatre. The space they use as a theatre over weekends when things are quiet doubles as valuable conference space during the week. It was originally the stables of the beautiful old house, now mainly used as a conference centre and restaurant. As is so often the case with these strange, non-purpose built theatre spaces, this little theatre at Foxwood House plays host to some fabulous productions.
When one visits the theatre (or even just to enjoy the gardens) one can have either tea or a meal at Foxwood House.
The main house, or The Villa, is also known as Burra-Burra, was designed by Frank Fleming, a partner of Sir Herbert Baker, after the First World War, although at the time Baker himself was working in India. The Boustred family owned The Villa, but in 1933 they sold it to an Australian couple Bert and Pearl Oates, and the latter laid out the garden as it still is today. It was they who named the house “Burra-Burra” after their home town Down Under. They held the Chrysler and the Peugeot franchises for South Africa, together with Bert’s brother Len. Their son, John, was only sixteen at the outbreak of World War II, but he left school and signed up with the Air Force. He was reported missing on 28 November 1943. Pearl refused to leave Burra-Burra, even buying it back when her husband’s will stipulated that it must be sold. She died there in August 1989, and the current owners, Pieter de Vos and Jan Groenewald moved in on what would have been her 98th birthday, 30 November 1989.
The next ten years were spent meticulously restoring The Villa. John’s radio grammophone still stands in the spot where it has stood since 1936. The library upstairs is is known as the John Oates Library, and a picture of him hangs there, and is home to a book of poetry written by John Oates.
The Villa’s history is maintained, together with the past of Pieter and Jan who have relics from the Boer War and a large collection of photos from South Africa’s past.
I was there recently to enjoy a performance of Bosman’s Patriots, a theatre piece written and performed by Bosman specialists, Tim Sandham and Angus Douglas. Bosman’s Patriots was directed by Janene Steenkamp. Angus Douglas play Hank Henning, a liberal academic, while Tim Sandham plays archivist Archie Anderson. Together they unpack a variety of fascinating tidbits about the life of Herman Charles Bosman.
I didn’t know a lot of the things I was learning about Bosman and I found the multimedia presentation intriguing. Bosman left a whole series of watercolours as his contribution to the art world. No, they are not very good art, but they are nevertheless interesting insights into Bosman, the man. I really enjoyed the opportunity to see these.
Tim Sandham recently wrote “A Bosman Companion” together with Professor Craig MacKenzie. While the book is referenced in the play, no attempt is made to sell the book. (I would have bought one, incidentally).
I enjoyed tea before and lunch after the performance. The buffet lunch with soup of the day (a sweet pumpkin soup was offered when I was there), roast lamb, roast beef, chicken pie, venison pies and several vegetables as well as dessert (one baked dessert with ice cream) costs R150 per person, but excludes coffee. I am told by my fellow diners that the venison pie was absolutely delicious, although I did not try it myself. Wine by the glass is R30. The service is very friendly and fast, but one does sometimes have to ask for things which should be provided.
There is secure parking, Wi-Fi and personalised service.
All round Foxwood House is well worth visiting. It is situated at 13 5th Street, Houghton, Johannesburg, with the closest crossing being 11th Avenue. This is behind the Killarney Mall, not the Virgin Active/Old Eds side of Houghton. It is west of the M1. GPS Co-ordinates 26′ 09′ 44 28 S 28’02 10,19 E. Their telephone number is 011 486 0935, their e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and their website is http://www.foxwood.co.za.