The Mercury

A nice quiet dinner

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HOW OFTEN don’t we read that such and such a concert or other event in Durban has been cancelled due to lack of support? Durban people don’t support the arts and entertainm­ent, we’re told. We’re philistine­s; we’re stick-in-the muds, stay-at-homes.

Yet the other night I was at an extravagan­za down on the beachfront where they were packed in like sardines. The vibe was astonishin­g. And the show is apparently going to run on and on and on.

I confess I had never heard before of Madame Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams, what they call a “dinner cirque”. It was with apprehensi­on that I learned it’s an idea to go along in fancy dress, get really in the mood.

And that was indeed the thing to do. We shared a table with a cardinal (or he might have been a Papal Nuncio) who once played rugby for DHS Old Boys – pax vobiscum; also with a bearded WG Grace figure. I was in shamefully dowdy mufti but I believe the splendid legs of the short-skirted blonde who was with me more than made up for it.

Madame Zingara’s has an emphasis on the zing. The action happens in a giant tent – made in the 1920s – that is all brocade, mirrors and stained glass windows. The waiters are a wraggle-taggle of cross-dressers and others who appear to have escaped from the foc’sle of a pirate ship. In an absolute chaos of lively music and breathtaki­ng acrobatics over a central stage, the waiters charge in and out with a superb four-course dinner and fine wines.

The acrobats are from Russia and Eastern Europe. The singers are buxom local lasses who just about lift the tent with numbers that range from American jazz to Miriam Makeba’s Click Song.

What a medley. The acrobatics are absolutely breathtaki­ng. The blonde girl in a cage suspended high above the audience looks just like Marilyn Monroe.

The double and treble-jointed dancers from Mongolia are simply awesome, their rhythmic contortion­s a sort of allegory of the process of evolution. The crowd were bowled over.

Where did all this come from? I really don’t know. But Madame Zingara (whoever she might be) has hit on the right formula: good food, good wines, good fun – coupled with real entertainm­ent.

There’s something retro and refreshing about East European circus-style stuff. Nobody’s bluffing anyone.

The audience sense it. They join in (in fact they took over the stage at the end). Give Durban real entertainm­ent and the punters roll in – cardinals, cricketers and all. Give them over-the-hill rock stars and other second-raters and the punters will not be fooled. The shows are cancelled.

Here’s a message for the impressari­os.

 ?? PICTURE: AP ?? In the absence of shade from the tree, visitors try to keep cool under umbrellas during a music festival held in Beijing yesterday.
PICTURE: AP In the absence of shade from the tree, visitors try to keep cool under umbrellas during a music festival held in Beijing yesterday.

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