Not just a tent

2008-06-19 00:00

Madame Zingara: Aphrodisia


Many Durbanites living on the higher ridges of the Berea must have been fascinated to watch the erection of what appears to be a circus tent at the old Waterworld site next to Suncoast Casino.

However, this is no ordinary circus tent, neither does it offer any ordinary entertainment. This is Madame Zingara, as the venue is known, a glamorous “lady” named after visionary restaurant owner Richard Griffin’s Cape Town venue which burnt down in 2006. Madame Zingara is a spiegelpalais, an original twenties magnificent mirror tent of the kind first built in Belgium around 1900 when they were used as travelling dancehalls. One of the very few left in the world today, this one is hung with sumptuous fabric, festooned with gilded cherubs and surrounded by stained-glass panelling, all reflected in the elegant mirrored posts.

Madame Zingara has already had extremely successful seasons in Cape Town and Johannesburg and comes to Durban with Aphrodisia, a spectacular new show for the winter season. When they leave here, the full tent and all its accoutrements plus cast, crew and equipment will pack up and go to the UK.

How does one describe the Madame Zingara experience? It’s simply that — an experience. An extraordinary experience of breathtaking performance, fine food and all-embracing hospitality. It’s also a chance to step from the humdrum everyday into a world that is stylish, gracious and flamboyant but right up to the minute in terms of efficient delivery. The evening is full of thrills and surprises from start to finish.

The performance is given in Cirque du Soleil style. The performers are human and what they present to the public are breathtaking balancing acts of magnificent skill and control. During their three acts, Ivan Silva, Brian Mynhardt, Sam Kotze, Gabriel Heflin, Wendy Knol, Christine Chapman, Martin Alvez, Larissa Rocha, Justine Whyte and Jonathan Cavanagh kept me utterly enthralled. Musical entertainment in mainly Motown style is provided by the larger-than-life Stella Magaba supported by The Original Tons: Marguerita Freeks, Dorothy Engelbrecht and Lilian Khumalo. One of the most outrageous characters of the evening is former Durbanite Andrew

Delport who takes the role of host, appearing in one outrageous costume after the other.

Shows are from Tuesdays to Saturdays with tickets ranging from R300 to R350 per person (depending on the seating area) including welcome drinks, a four-course dinner and the show. We enjoyed an antipasto along with leek and potato soup followed by a delicious ravioli dish. For the main course, I opted for Madame’s Chocolate Chilli Fillet. There were also Springbok Shanks Pasticcio di Polenta Prima Vera (vegetarian). If that wasn’t a sumptuous enough selection, all beautifully presented, it was followed by Dolce, a delicious threesome of different desserts. There is a full cash bar, meals are Halaal friendly and those with special dietary requirements should alert the box office at least 72 hours before attending.

Doors open at 6.30 pm and guests must be seated by 7.30 pm. To reach Madame Zingara, you go through Sun Coast Casino’s main parking entrance (R5 per vehicle), keep to your left and travel towards the tent.

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