A Tale Twisted, Sheer Entertainment.
by Louw Mulder
I often hear all the whines and the moans from Cape Townians and Durbanites who complain about top shows only coming to Johannesburg. However, lately I am constantly seeing marketing and promotional material of quality productions staged in Cape Town, which never get to see the backstage of a Johannesburg theatre. At this moment, I am referring in particular to the slick and edgy shows on stage at Gate69 in vibrant Cape Town.
During my recent visit to the Mother City, I got to visit Gate69, a Cabaret Restaurant theatre situated in trendy Bree Street. This venue recently staged Hedwig and the Angry Inch, their in-house produced cabaret, Full Throttle and also the Many Voices of Christina Bianco, who recently took over the flight deck. Founder and main act of this establishment, is well known actor and performer, Brendan van Rhyn, who wowed audiences with his role of Frank-N-Furter, in the recent and highly acclaimed production of The Rocky Horror Show, the role that won him the 2015 Naledi Theatre Award for Best performance by a Male Actor in a Musical (Shared deservedly with Jonathan Roxmouth). Van Rhyn nowadays leads and stars in the drag trio act, The Trolley Dollies, resident performers of Gate69, and already on a fast track to sustain a high level of popularity in the city below Table Mountain.
Their new production, Macbeth, An Adult Panto opened last week, and I was very fortunate to attend one of the shows. Walking down a perfectly suited red carpet, we were extravagantly received by the host, Cathy Specific, van Rhyn’s female alter-ego, who lead the way to the bar. Receiving a warm and friendly welcome like this, in a venue classy and dedicated to the overall theme, one is bound to be excited for what is still to come. After a delicious set menu, served by the Trolley Dollies themselves with witty chirps and over-the-top hairdo’s, the mood was set for the Panto to begin.
Together with van Rhyn, there is Christopher Dudgeon, and Rudi Jansen who complete the Three Witches. Macbeth was played by Kyle Jardine, with Tessa Denton in the role of Lady Macbeth. This Panto, very loosely based on the famous Scottish Play, was written by Dudgeon, with the direction and Lighting design by Elizma Badenhorst. The set was left to Eddie du Plooy and Johke Steenkamp, who did an amazing job, especially with those sultry scenes that got hot in bed…
The story begins with a love scene between Macbeth and his Lady, set to the music of a song formerly known as Kiss the Girl out of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. But as soon as the audience noticed that nothing is as innocent and cute as what it seems, the tone for the rest of the show was set.
As Macbeth, stars the very handsome and talented Kyle Jardine, recently from the International Touring Company of Pieter Toerien’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. With Gate69 catering for everyone; audiences will appreciate the versatility and flamboyant persona of Jardine in his role, but then again, for the ever-present gay male and straight female audience members following the tale, Jardine provides for some eye candy that doesn’t disappoint. I thought Jardine played a magnificent role. I think a character like this can easily be misperceived as an easy and silly role to play, but Jardine, who has recently established the professional stage as his playground, acted in a very convincing and extremely enjoyable portrayal of a very camp, gay, bottom Macbeth….. what, wait… No, I am saying too much at this point…
After this experience, I got an opportunity to have a little chat with Mr Jardine about appearing in this Panto. Even though this was a last minute casting, he said: “I didn’t actually know too much about this production when I was called in to audition, however, the opportunity to work with such a great team and cast of performers, along with Gate69’s credits and style of their shows, is what made me realise that this would most certainly be a fun and exciting show to be part of.” Jardine said. “My experience with this show so far has been exciting, as one does not always have the opportunity to explore such edgy and mischievous content.” Almost writing my review for me, Jardine added: “The vibe and the venue presented to the guests as they walk in, is the vibe that carries throughout the theatre. It is such a privilege to be a part of this show, and so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive, since we had no idea how audiences would respond to it.”
Completing the cast, is the talented Tessa Denton with a very impressive resume of roles on both Stage and Screen. Playing a dual role, her definitive distinctions between characters was a delight to watch. At times I felt incredibly sympathetic to witness what Denton’s character has to go through in the bedroom… In turn, Denton told Stage and Srcreen that the best thing about being in Macbeth, is to work with her friends and at Gate69 specifically. “I have a history with each Trolley Dolly separately, so it’s like coming home. What I like most about our show is the laughter. Comedy is by far my favourite genre and we get to push a lot of limits at Gate 69 in that department. It’s refreshing.”
The main attraction of this production for me was the three witches, played by the Trolley Dollies themselves, and they delivered on each and every expectation I had. Seeing them in action already forced a smile on my face, but what I found amazing, is the electricity and chemistry, (or should I say hairspray and tuck-tape?) shared between these three actors. I thought they appeared to be hilariously in-sync, so much so, that the excitement of seeing real effort and showmanship coming to life, were incredibly satisfying to watch. I felt that the scenes where ad-lib dialogue was required, was acted out effortlessly. Their quick, hysterical chirps, and thinking quickly on their heels, came as second nature. This is the show where the art of the performing drag artist, is distinguished from the commonly known drag queen…
There is a perfectly good reason why Macbeth, The Adult Panto, is advertised with an age restriction of 18 years, which is merely to advise patrons who are sensitive to foul language, and deep under-the-belt jokes, to rather stay away. There is no nudity in this production, but it’s dirty at times, sometimes nasty, but once you realise that Panto is staged for sheer entertainment, you will enjoy a first-class Adult Panto, and may even want to venture back for seconds!
Macbeth, The Adult Panto will run at Gate69, Cape Town, till 30 December 2017.