Theatre review: Vaudeville

Posted: January 11, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
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First published in the Sunday Independent 10 January 2010

 A French poodle on stilts is being chastised by a busty dominatrix bedecked in a scarlet velvet dress; she too is on stilts.  A bride in full white wedding paraphernalia, having lost her groom, is running around in circles.  The depressed penguin, fluffed and primed like Cruella de vil, shuffles forlornly from one side to the other.  Then a five-breasted woman glides across a sky filled with white cotton clouds, and golden birdcages to which are attached blood red wings.  And this is just the warm-up to the spectacular that is the newly opened Vaudeville supper club in Cape Town. 

The 300-seater club is adorned in a Moulin Rouge meets Milan fashion style with the typical blood red and burnt orange velvet drapes that drip and dangle from the walls and the roof.  Italian style golden-sprayed, and somewhat kitsch, moulds cover the dining booths.  The lights are sensually low and the band plays corporeal music that is morbidly fascinating. The sparkling wine flows. 

Clearly the brains behind what they call, a Vaudevillian burlesque club, were going big on this project.  Robert Sawyer and Tom Pearson-Adams had a vision to create Cape Town’s most sought after nightclub.  For Sawyer, Vaudeville is his 100th venue opening and his business partner Tom Pearson-Adams has around 15 years experience in and around the European music industry.

 Sawyer says they spotted a niche market for a supper club in Cape Town.   Pearson-Adams discovered the old Cape Town rubber factory on Mechau Street in the Foreshore. “It was perfect,” says Sawyer, “It already had a makeshift stage and different levels that included a mezzanine level which stretches out over the main floor.” The mezzanine level is now part of the newly opened Moroccan themed Fez night club.

The show varies somewhat, but on average you may expect around 21 circus-like acts delivered during your three-course meal.  Sawyer and Pearson-Adams harvested some of the performers from the Madame Zingara crew that travelled around South Africa and Europe. “It was a bit like, Ocean’s Eleven, getting the crew together,” Sawyer laughs, “Pulling in the Zingara performers and the rest from crew ships and Joburg.”  Some of the international acts include a strong man; who lumbers between the tables and rips packs of cards in half and bends everything on sight; and a Romanian gymnast performs the most stupendously graceful acts.

The gorgeous hoola-hoop fire girl charms the audience dressed only in a pair of tiny black satin knickers and little red flame patterned nipple stickers.  It’s a slightly bizarre and very vibrant show. It’s also a lot of fun.  The spunky Irit Noble compères the show; backed by the To Do Sisters and a quartet of sexy showgirls. A feuding tap-dancing duo brings back nostalgic memories of the Gene Kelly-era; with a modern twist. 

Vaudeville review, photo 3, the Vaudeville BBOys Duane and Jed Lawrence, Carl van Vrede, the Penguin Man and Albert Pretorius as Ringmaster Photo by Robin Sprong

The evening includes a three-course dinner by chef Andrea Foulkes from DISH.  During opening night the house was filled to its embellished rafters and Sawyer afterwards filled me in on the last minute disasters, caused by recent floods, that threw them a bit. They only had time for two dress rehearsals and they hastily had to put the final touches to the order of events and decor. Still, the food was not great. Sawyer assured me that they are working on perfecting the menus. Five different menus will be rotated every two weeks.  On opening night the Mezze platter, though nothing outrageous or particularly burlesque, went down well. Freshly grilled aubergine slices, hummus, spiced butternut, ricotta paté, and more, served with ciabatta are perfect to vacantly nibble on while you gape at the quick changing acts and the decor. The free-range Namibian Sirloin, I was told by my carnivorous table mates, was tough and somewhat tasteless.  My vegetarian risotto was bland and dull and quickly pushed aside.  We felt the basket full of home-made biscuits, chocolates, and heavenly marshmallows were tasty and appropriate. The wine list is not very extensive or exiting.

Throughout the evening, Jinx, the 5-piece band, performs in between acts.  Sawyer says the band actually found them, “It’s so strange,” he smiles, “The lead singer’s name is actually Vaughan de Ville. They approached us, and it turns out their music is a perfect match for the ambience we are trying to create.”   Jinx’s blend of Nine Inch Nails meets Marilyn Manson, with dashes of circus Balkan and a lick of emo-goth does not disappoint.  Part of the team behind Vaudeville combines the talents of producers Will Hutton and Andrew Florenca of The Sunroom, and party architect, Dirk Vervaeke.

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