“…if it’s not the most exciting thing in town, it’s not worth it…”
At first it might seem that Mannie Manim is telling a coming-of-age story of a boy growing up in suburban Johannesburg in the 50s, perhaps even a rags-to-riches story; but it is not. It is a story of enlightenment … of that moment when lives are changed and you are hurled into a clear understanding of your life’s path; for him it was an understanding that theatre had beckoned and he was emboldened to learn everything there is to know about theatre and to advance that knowledge to benefit actors, playwrights and theatre practitioners across South Africa.
While still a school boy he was directed to the Brooke Theatre to take up a job as an usher. Having never seen a play before he was immediately smitten; his voyage had begun and the fates brought his alchemy to life – to create, invent and transform where transformation was needed. Most notably he became the catalyst for the creation of the Market Theatre at a time when South Africa’s artistic and political history needed a palliative for the nation’s pain, a home for the provocative force that was Barney Simon and the creative energy of the actors, producers and directors that gathered around these two men. Behind this extraordinary collective there was always Mannie Manim, watching, guiding, manipulating budgets to make things possible. He did it for PACT and later he did it for Wits University, for Johannesburg’s Civic Theatre, the Baxter Theatre and the Fugard in Cape Town.
Mannie’s is an exceptional story of the unfurling of one of our theatre history’s most important performance stages, one that drew attention to the plight of SA across the world and of the man who enabled it to happen.
With Barney Simon
Photo by Gisele Wulfsohn
Athol Fugard and Esmeralda Bihl
Photo by Ruphin Coudyzer
Mannie and Wole Soyinka
Mannie at Baxter Theatre