There are some things in life which remind me what a privilege my long
one has been.
John and I shared many hours entertaining the MOTHs in their
shellholes, for all sorts of functions in the 1980s and 1990s.
Of course all the old war songs, especially those of Vera Lynn were the
order of the day, but my goodness, when we played rock n roll, we were
reminded how true the expression “Young at heart” is !!
In 1927, the MOTH or “Memorable order of Tin Hats” was established by
Moth “0”, Charles Evenden, and his comrades, so that former front line
South African soldiers could have a network to help each other,
physically or financially, in times of need. They also wanted to
remember those who had answered the “Sunset Call” in times of War and
From ‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
The Rhumbelow Shellhole in Cunningham Road, Umbilo was started in an
old cowshed and name of the Shellhole was a play on the words ‘Rum’
Someone kindly donated a site in Cunningham Road, and the Hall opened
on September 1st 1929.
Tens of thousands of ex servicemen have passed through the doors of
these shellholes and spent many hours fundraising, and sharing memories
in the dugout bars !!
Which brings me to The Family Players.
The Family Players, a group of Comedy Drag Mime artists had been doing
shows in Durban since 1986, raising funds for the elderly, especially
at TAFTA – The Association For The Aged.
They decided to look for a permanent ‘home’ and, after fruitful
discussions, The Rhumbelow MOTH Shellhole hosted the very first “Family
Players” production “Tipsy Tarts” in July 2001.
A new Theatre was born.
Over the years, in varying numbers, the Troupe’s stars,
Roland Stansell, Allan Quihampton, Derek Snyders Pearce,
Greg Baptie, Graham Goodwin, Gino Veronie, Isaac Shozi.
David Hierons, the late John Cavaheir, Kevin Mardon,
the late Gavin Young, Patrick Dalais,Anthony Stonier,
and glamour girl Belinda Dolphin,
appeared in over a hundred shows, and they presented their finale show
“Adieu” in May 2019.
Meanwhile, Roland and his team opened the Rhumbelow Theatre doors to
all Durban Theatre Performers.
Quote …..“ I suggested to the Moths and Mothwa that we have shows
every month, including shows by other acts.
In my opinion, it was easier to market a permanent venue, that operates
monthly, than to do random shows in the year.”
For the last 20 years, the Show list has read like the Who’s Who of our
The Rhumbelow Theatre now has franchises in Kloof, Pietermaritzberg and
Durban North, all putting on first class performances of music, comedy
and serious Drama for all our Theatre Goers.
I have been lucky enough to have staged half a dozen Rhumbelow Theatre
shows – solo, and with my wonderful friends.
When the schools could no longer accommodate touring Educational Shows,
Roland opened his doors to our Puppets. Over the last decade we have
entertained children of all ages with Suzy’s Supa Dupa Puppet
The Theatre was recently renovated with major improvements to the
floor, ceiling, stage, outside awning area, and infrastructure.
After having to close for a few months last year, Roland was determined
to reopen the Theatre to help actors and musicians with some kind of
income. He makes sure that The Rhumbelow Theatre keeps to every
Government guideline. At one point Rhumbelow was the only Independent
Theatre still functioning in KZN.
Numbers are, naturally, down, but he (and Bessie van Schoor the
wonderful “refreshments Lady”) have smiled and greeted all determined
There is a whole weekend of 20th Birthday Celebration Shows planned in
true Rhumbelow Style.
This is only a very short summary, from my perspective, of why I,
Durban, its actors, actresses and all shades of musicians, owe such a
debt of gratitude to the MOTH order, and to Roland Stansell, and his
team of Front of House, Lighting and Sound technicians.
Happy 20th Birthday everyone, and here’s to all the next “Curtain Up”