​The first chair in Drama at a South African university was instituted in 1961 by Prof. H. B. Thom.  This Department, with Prof. Fred Engelen as head of Drama, was housed in the old Chemistry Department building of the Victoria College. The old "Dutch" hall of the building was converted into an experimental theatre with 110 seats.  At the opening ceremony of the experimental theatre Prof. Thom expressed his wish to see a fully-fledged university theatre.  Prof. Engelen, who shared this vision, then launched an intensive campaign for the building of such a theatre.  Only four years later, in August 1965, the dream took on material shape and the foundations of the H.B. Thom Theatre were laid in reinforced concrete.

Emile Aucamp was appointed as Chief Theatre Technician - a position he would hold until his untimely death in 1995. Mr Jos Willems was the Theatre Manager until he retired in the early 1980s. On 7 October 1966 the H.B. Thom Theatre was opened in style with the first Afrikaans production of FAUST, under the direction of Prof. Engelen and with Siegfried Mynhardt in the lead role.​ On 23 November 2019 the theatre was renamed the Adam Small Theatre Complex after numerous renovations and the addition of the Lab Theatre.