Review – Musical tribute to Cape Town

2012-10-06 11:00

The Kaapse Stories from the Mother City supper theatre show has the audience in the thick of Cape Town’s history, writes Yazeed Kamaldien

Snippets of Cape Town’s distinct landscape, accents and music have found a place in South African pop culture.

A local theatre show, Kaapse Stories from the Mother City is presented in a dinner-and-theatre format at Richard’s Supper Stage & Bistro in Sea Point.

Richard Loring, who produced African Footprint, imported the concept to Cape Town after running a similar venue in Joburg.

Kaapse Stories is a tribute to Cape Town. Its protagonist is Grandpa Joe, played by Royston Stoffels, who leads a seven-member cast. Grandpa Joe tells the story of his Kleintjies family.

His granddaughter, brother, a surprise sibling and a few other characters help with song along the way.

In the Mother City, the audience meets a musical family that tells them about Cape Town’s historical beginnings.

Racism and apartheid are part of this story as the Kleintjies family, like so many Cape Town families, had a mixed-race marriage that was banned by the former government.

The result is that Grandpa Joe performs with his white and coloured grandchildren on stage.

The venue reminds one of District Six, an area in central Cape Town known for its diversity but destroyed under the apartheid government’s segregation laws.

Street names from District Six – like Chapel, Russell, Muir and Caledon – are painted on to the staircase that leads from the entrance to the performance area.

Some street names are painted on the walls where the show is performed. The venue’s walls are also covered with photos of the Bo-Kaap’s colourful houses.

Glittering hats usually worn by Cape minstrels adorn the tables and Banjo music welcomes the audience.

A magician moves around the venue to show off his party tricks at different tables before the show begins.

Soon the actors appear and elicit an intimacy as they move through and interact with the audience.

The music selection lends on traditional Cape Malay, Xhosa and Afrikaans songs as these reflect the dominant cultural groups that have contributed to layering Cape Town with flavour.

One of these popular songs, a favourite of Cape minstrel bands, is about how Southeast Asians, captured by Dutch colonisers, were given surnames based on the month they landed in the Cape.

And so, there are families with surnames like January, February, September and October.

Kaapse Stories also offers comedy. In one scene, a bergie, or homeless man – supposedly also a car guard – gate-crashes the venue and asks the audience for money.

Then this rough-looking guy breaks into song.

Only in Cape Town will you find that your car guard can pull off opera songs.

It reminds one of a former street sweeper in this city whose voice has taken him to far-flung stages after winning a talent-search competition.

Then there is also the issue of migrant labour in Cape Town.

This story would be incomplete if there was no mention of migrant labourers who travel regularly to this city from Eastern Cape towns to find employment.

During the interval, the audience is entertained with traditional Cape Town cooking that “sounds like poetry”.

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