Saturday, 01 March 2014 08:48

Zingara in the City of Gold

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The Mongolian princesses display the time honoured art form of contortionism The Mongolian princesses display the time honoured art form of contortionism Pictures supplied by Madame Zingara

Is it a circus? Is it a restaurant? No, it's Madame Zingara and the Theatre of Dreams, a meld of fairground fantasy, a travelling dinner extravaganza and "wild fin-de-siecle nightlife"!

The enchantingly bohemian Madame Zingara inhabits a world of cabaret, contortionism and comedy, of death-defing acts and doo-wop, of fantastical food and frolicking wait staff.

With a little patta-patta thrown in.

Even the audience is part of the act - and it's always full house.

Madame Zingara is a uniquely South African product, with a little Belgian magic fairy dust sprinkled on top. She was born in the Mother City in 2001, when she first opened her doors in Loop Street as a whimsical restaurant.

The restaurant itself sadly burnt down in 2004 but the Zingara family then joined forces with the Klessens family of Het Spiegelpaleis.

Today Madame Zingara is housed in one of the last remaining antique mirror tents in the world. Mirror tents were used in Belgium at the end of the 19th century as travelling dance halls where they were the domain of "night owls, heartbreakers and dream chasers" (and people could look at one another voyeuristically in the many reflections surrounding them).

In 2007 the Theatre of Dreams was born, and toured Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban for almost two years, before heading off to London in 2008.

Before long the Theatre of Dreams was also back in SA, once again enthralling audiences nationwide with "The Love Magic Tour".

Its latest show, the "After Forever Tour Jozi 2014", is housed in the improbably Italianate setting of Montecasino.

It's a good fit though for the Zingarean characters who convort nightly, from as the Absinthe Fairy, the Hot Mr C with his silver teeth, the dynamic quartet from Cape Town The Specifics, who rival The Sapphires for "can belto" virtuosity, to the original "Ton of Fun" Lilian and the many talented acts from around the world.

The Russian bar artists somersault into the air with the greatest of ease, Sam the pole dancer shows off core muscles of steel, the Gauchos Bollas duo from Argentina Walter and Ezequiel combine flamenco dance with bollas ropes that they swing around and beat the chequered floor while the drums beat.

There is even a spot of human foot juggling.

The Mongolian princesses turn themselves inside out like human rubber bands and even manage to ... no, I won't spoil the fun for the people who haven't seen the show yet.

The experience is sheer fun from start to finish: posing for pictures inside the bird cage with the "white birdy", getting unexpectedly squirted with water by an innocuous looking plant every time you pass, becoming a true Zingarean with a vast array of props and face painting, being invited to pinch the waiter's bum, being enveloped in huge swathes of smoke, and having your table moved backwards for the "death defying act" which involves a skinny gymnast being tossed in the air and caught again on a tiny little piece of plank by two burly men.

Imagine if you will being surrounded by tables of guests dressed as zombies or angels, the white sparkly haloes of the latter bobbing as they wrap themselves around the delicious lamb shanks and many other yummy things on the menu and chatter, the zombies grinning in sinister fashion or gawking at the lithe acrobatic female forms being tossed in the air. A man with the face of the Joker strolls past, his face caught in an unearthly rictus. A scantily clad photographer in a Magenta-style corset takes your picture. Facebook friends post how jealous they are but how they have booked for next week. The chefs troop through for a round of applause.

It's eternal party time at Madame Zingara and everyone is invited!


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