Feel the Cape Love Magic at Theatre of Dreams

I was invited to attend the opening night of Richard Griffin’s Theatre of Dreams 2010 Love Magic Tour near Canal Walk last week as the season kicked off. What a buzz! From the minute you enter the colourful eZingalethu shanty town - a 2010 addition - surrounding the vintage mirrored velvet show tent, you start feeling the creative magic. inside_tent_b.jpg Exotic creatures with broad shoulders, fairy wings and wigs wander past sipping from oversized champagne glasses as you’re taking in the Boot-Ishoe stall selling numbered gumboots adjacent to the temporary tattoo parlour. A mojito is thrust into your hand near the front of the theatre queue as you’re focusing on a washline of pink and orange hot pants hanging above a veggie garden of plastic pumpkins.

This is a return to dinner and a show on a big scale, with lovely Cape flavour. When the spotlight shines, singers and performers put on a class act. Nostalgic former Madame Zingara Cape Town restaurant food features and the vibe is creatively contagious. Many of Griffin’s original staff are back – kitchen, creative team and flamboyantly confident or camp waiters. Griffin has moved out of the kitchen into the role of creative director. ivor_pietersen_madam_zingara_opening-8.jpg Talented Valentina Love conceptualises the show.

It’s quite an operation considering that 400 guests are served in a sitting, with 120 staff employed per shift. On site theatre of dreams the dress code is described as ‘bohemian and burlesque’, so any guests bringing their bunny ears or feather boa will feel at home. I didn’t expect great food when I saw the attention to detail of theatre décor and tables (a Barbie doll and fake rose centrepiece anyone?). But the four-course menu was of a high standard. Filling too.

We nibbled on a hot and cold antipasti platter for two, followed by a pasta course (our artichoke ravioli with Cinzano cream sauce being undercooked was a minor glitch). Main course options included something vegetarian or springbok shank or signature Madame Zingara chocolate chilli steak or Norwegian salmon. Appropriately, the steak has been halted in early 2000 with its sweet sauce topped with a nest-like deepfried noodle stack. The fish has a similar timewarp flavour with coconut cream and herb oil drizzles, served on pumpkin mash. The evening finishes off with a tasty trio of desserts.

2010 performance highlights include Ukrainians Igor Kostenko and Argem Lyubanevych, whose muscled limbs hold up under a startlingly impressive strap act. ivor_pietersen_madam_zingara_opening-167.jpg Equally awe-inspiring are the Russian roller disco duo of Kristine and Ivan Prokopyuk, who trained in Moscow State Circus. Kristine’s glittery gold and black body is whipped vertically and horizontally as the couple whirl around a tiny circular stage. Fellow countrywoman Polina Volchek contorts her flexible gymnastic body with multiple hula hoops in positions I didn’t think possible. There is local show content too – a vocal high is South African divas Lilian Khumalo, Marguerita Freeks and Dorothy Engelbrecht of The Original Tons of Fun with their cover versions spanning the decades. “You’re just too good to be true…”

eZingalethu shanty town is an appealing side attraction, accessed as you queue for the main Theatre of Dreams tent (funds raised through the Love Magic Tour will facilitate the construction of a medical and community centre in Khayelitsha). Before the show or during toilet breaks, people congregate in the shebeen with its pickled fish label walls, jiving to jazzy tunes of a township band while sipping beer in quarts. You’re lured past Stella’s Place hair salon and a space with Lucky Star pilchard prints. Around the back, car hubcaps lead the way to a chalkboard offering snacks of pap and chakalakka or bunnies in vetkoek.

In short: this is the sort of show where you grab a group of friends and go. It’s grand, it’s fantastical and it’s fun.

The Theatre of Dreams 2010 Love Magic Tour Cape Town season runs from June until October 2010. Shows from Mon to Sat, dinner and show tickets from R300 to R450pp. Cash bar for drinks. Tel 021 001 3366, bookings The show moves to Joburg from October, Durban in 2011.