"Welcome to the Karroo Theatrical Hotel – the only theatrical hotel in the world!"
Picture a balmy Karoo Saturday night in the town of Steytlerville with the chic hotel on the outskirts of the town fully booked. The intimate Grimaldi's Theatre Hall is packed with guests from nearby and afar. They’ve enjoyed a scrumptious three-course dinner and are now eagerly awaiting the evening's performance by The Steytlerville Follies, presented by talented maestro and pianist Freddie Ferrari, and starring the legendary Karoovian diva, Dame Leyla Lamborgini.
The Karroo Theatrical Hotel is no ordinary hotel. On the one hand it’s a discerning home away from home where the weary guest can rejuvenate in the healthy Karoo air, spoiled by the personal attention of hotel owners Mark Hinds and Jacques Rabie. At the same time the hotel is an extravaganza of style, laughter, fine authentic Karoo cuisine and even a hint of decadence. This is especially true when glitz and burlesque meet on a Saturday night over a grand piano and Mark and Jacques completely switch roles to show their true colours as world-class performing artists in a show that could have come directly from one of the many top theatrical revues in Europe.
And this is indeed where Mark has matured as a performing artist. With 30 years’ of experience in the performing arts in Europe’s German-speaking countries, he decided to finally bid farewell the glitter of the European stage and to follow his life-long dream of owning a small hotel where he can combine his passion for the performing arts and his love for people.
Jacques has a rich background in singing. Already at a young age he began earning top honours at eisteddfods and other national events. This, together with other performances in his later singing career, formed the basis for his extravagant performance as Dame Leyla Lamborgini at the Karroo Theatrical Hotel in which he impersonates some of the top female singers of yesteryear.
Although the hotel – originally registered as the Karroo Hotel – was built in 1943, a profound decision 33 years earlier that significantly affected life in the town of Steytlerville, in a way forms part of its history.
During those early years the NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) had much say in the governance of the town. At the time the only outlet for the sale of alcohol was the Royal Hotel, built by a certain Sir Lewis Richardson in 1896. The son of an influential kerkraadslid (member of the church council) became a frequent visitor to the hotel bar and developed an unhealthy predilection for the alcoholic refreshments sold there. As a result the kerkraadslid managed to persuade the kerkraad (church council) not to allow the annual renewal of the hotel’s liquor licence once it had expired at the end of 1910. In this way Steytlerville was declared a ‘dry town’ and for the following 76 years no alcohol was allowed to be sold within its parameters.
In 1943 a Mr. Alfred Brett acquired a portion of Vaal Heuwel Farm – which was within a stone’s throw of the boundaries of the village commonage, yet legally outside of its area of jurisdiction – and built the Karroo Hotel. This was to be the only ‘drinking hole’ and off-sales within the entire district of Steytlerville until 1986 when the ban was rescinded. With liquor now legally available in the town itself, the hotel went into a gradual decline and eventual abandonment.
Jacques and Mark purchased the derelict shell of the Karroo Hotel in 2003 and began the monumental task of restoring and completing the building. With a dream to create a retreat that would offer more than merely food and accommodation, and with a vision to include their experience in the world of the performing arts as part of this venture, the new owners registered its name as the Karroo Theatrical Hotel. In doing so they established a unique concept of a theatrical getaway venue.
Driven by a pioneering spirit and noteworthy perfectionism, Jacques and Mark set out to make this dream come true, doing most of the work themselves.
Mark focused on the architectural and interior design, furniture making, marketing and establishing the venture as a business concern. As a remarkable all-rounder, Jacques’ contribution ranged from doing the electrical and mechanical work, plumbing and the tiling, right through to making the soft furniture and curtains, seeing to the gardens and, as the cherry on the top, designing and making the extravagant dresses and costumes for The Steytlerville Follies’ performances.
Inspiration and hard work transformed the hotel into the fine concern that it is today.
Do not expect to find TV sets in the rooms – not even radios. For good reasons these items do not really fit in. However, look forward to striking, tasteful and creative interior décor, sleeping on a good bed with quality bedding, first-class and wholesome food, discreet personal attention and, above all, good old-fashioned hospitality and service.
Do not search for vision and mission statements in frames on the walls, but instead experience the sincere passion and dedication in everything that Jacques and Mark do to make your stay memorable.
Anticipate delightful surprises such as freshly baked banana loaf, jam tartlets or biscotti when coffee is served in the afternoon on the large verandah while putting your feet up and relaxing on one of the deep, comfortable couches.
Absorb the tranquillity and cleanse your lungs when you inhale the purest Karoo air. Embrace the space and magnificent views of wide open plains and surrounding mountains. Enjoy the garden and the sparkling swimming pool, or take a sunset stroll to the dam where you can observe the abundance of bird life.
Gain an understanding of Jacques and Mark’s caring nature when you look at their assembly of furry friends – each with its own story to tell – that form part of the day-to-day homelike life at the hotel.
Stand amazed by the large number of beautiful pianos in the building. (Mark is also a piano technician by trade.) If you happen to be inside the building, absorb the vibrant piano sounds floating from Grimaldi’s Theatre Hall as Mark rehearses for the next show on the Blüthner grand piano, manufactured in Leipzig, Germany 130 years ago.
Listen in awe as Mark tells the story of Grimaldi, the little fluffy white dog after whom the theatre hall had been named. He was of a noble and highly sought-after breed known as the Coton de Tulear and was the star of one of the top performing dog acts in Europe. Embraced by Mark and Jacques, he retired and moved back to South Africa in 2002, making the Karroo Theatrical Hotel his new home where he later passed away at the ripe age of sixteen.
Marvel at the beautifully restored 1963 Austin Vanden Plas Princess which is the pride and joy of the hotel. Wave gracefully at town folk from the roomy back seat if you’re one of the lucky and privileged few who may be invited for an excursion down Steytlerville’s main road.
But, back to the show!
"Welcome to the Karroo Theatrical Hotel ..."
Freddy Ferrari's opening words from the glittering stage can only hint at the glamour, excitement and fine humour that would follow during the night’s performance. And what a performance it is! Freddy's serious, yet zestful, humorous and innovative performance of classical works and more modern pieces on the grand piano enthrals the audience. Dame Leyla Lamborgini's powerful entrance is only overshadowed by her extravagant costumes and impressive renditions of hit songs by superstars such as Diana Ross, Shirley Bassey and Celine Dion.
But in the end when the excitement of the show is over and the guests have left, two people with a passion for what they are doing remain. The combination of the hotel, the theatre, the ambience, the food and the service is only the end result. The soul that drives all of this is Mark and Jacques, fuelled by their vision, dedication and unpretentious passion to enrich the lives of people and to make a difference for those whom they touch with their modesty and gentleness.
Leaving after your stay, you will already be planning to return. And with Jacques’ performance of the hit song I did it my way still echoing in your mind, you’ll be counting the reasons why the Karroo Theatrical Hotel is like no other hotel. And although there are many, you will agree that the main reason will always be because Mark and Jacques did it their way.
Available every Saturday night. This remarkable package includes: Accommodation, sundowner cocktails with canapés, a delectable three-course candlelight dinner in a mesmerising setting, our signature cabaret show – The Steytlerville Follies – rounded off with an assortment of cheeses, Cape Ruby and coffee. Also included is a buffet breakfast on Sunday morning.
R1 560 per couple in a standard room (double bed)
R1 680 per couple in a standard room (twin beds)
R1 860 per couple in a superior room (queen bed)
R1 980 per couple in a superior room (twin beds)
R1 080 Single rate in a standard room