Stage review: Apoca-Lips! at Gate69 jabs in the right places

Show: Apoca-Lips!
Where: Gate69 Address: 87 Bree Street, Cape Town, 8001 When: Until October 30, 2021  Tickets: R390 – R450 – includes tequila flavoured purple soft serve ice-cream. Bookings: Time: 7.30pm. Suggested arrival time- 6.30pm  Dress code: Masks mandatory, smart Food: Pre-order from Chef’s Warehouse. In the process of booking tickets, the food menu pops up: Cheese and charcuterie board- platter for 2 (R280), platter for 4 (R560); Vegetarian Platter-for 2 (R280) or platter for 4 (R560)

Christopher Dudgeon, looking buff and fabulous, clad in snug leather pants and heels, kicks off Apoca-Lips!, with a  flashback to New Year’s Eve – taking leave of 2019 – welcoming in 2020 – and what we thought would be the roaring 20s. We had no idea what was in store and here we are 18 months and more, and we are still in the thick of Rona, in this apocalypse of the pandemic. At the heart of Apoca-Lips, is the need to nurture connections to one another and keep going.

How many people can we count that are important to us; that we connect with, he asks. He cites Robin Dunbar, the British evolutionary psychologist who studied primate behaviour. He posited that each person can establish stable connections with about 150 people. I looked on the internet. Other studies put the number higher. Some researchers say that it is a much lower number. Throughout Apoca-Lips!, Dudgeon, registers his bafflement at us humans – focused on our social media and how many followers we have and like our posts- rather than what is important – humanity and being human. Feeding into his bafflement is the “sane people and the anti-vaxers”. This statement led to a burst of applause. He has a lot more to say on the subject of vaccines.

In the finale song of the show– Sax – by – Fleur East– Dudgeon has changed the lyrics – and has turned it into a call-out to get vaccinated. This song got the audience on its feet, in a vocal standing ovation of support. I think an apt sub-heading for this cabaret show is – “Let us all get vaccinated- please- now”. Bravo to Dudgeon and team Gate69 for putting this on stage. Coupled with the singing, sexy dance and costumes- this show is a call for us to get vaccinated.

The live –performance industry was brought to a grinding halt because of lockdown measures. Supermarkets were allowed to operate – jam packed with customers. Theatres had to adhere to reduced seating which made it unviable to operate. From Friday, October 1, lockdown was eased with venues allowed to seat increased numbers. However, with vaccine hesitancy and refusal, we may well see another surge in the pandemic and harder lockdowns. Guess, who will take the brunt? You got it – theatres – the live performance sector. It will be a continuation of this apocalypse of hell. This is the first time, that I have seen and active stance, brought into focus in a theatre show in Cape Town.  Apoca-Lips! is a show about evolution and –mating, genitalia, survival – and the point is how to avert this Armageddon? What are we are doing to stop this catastrophe? There is lots of fun in this show and some full frontal nudity. Dudgeons’ proxy Nona (grandma), the ultra-glam Carole Shonfeld was cool with the lesson in anatomy. She is 83, so lighten up peeps and thanks to Sean John Louw for taking on the role of unclothed mannequin. Titillation and flesh is great but there is a very important message undercutting the cabaret.

Gate69 has always been about providing a safe space for all- irrespective of gender affiliation, sexuality and whatever. It continues to be this safe space and place for letting go. After the show, a man in business class (those are the upstairs seats, on the balcony), took off his shirt and danced, along with the party, at his table. They were having a blast. That is wonderful but in order for the safe space to be viable and theatre to be able to operate- we need to vanquish the pandemic – or tame it. With the prospect of vaccine passports, there has been hysteria about discrimination, invading privacy and embarrassing people. Well, hello, as someone I knows muses, no one has ever actually died of embarrassment, in spite of the expression.  People are dying of Covid. This pandemic has been an apocalypse for theatre. If we want to be able to enjoy shows at Gate69 and other venues, then we need to get vaccinated- to reach herd immunity.

Dudgeon told me that team Gate69 has been vaccinated – staff – performers – crew. Yes, I know that vaccines don’t guarantee that one won’t get Covid. But according to peer reviewed research, vaccines are our best bet of pushing beyond this apocalypse.  Thank you to Dudgeon and Gate69 for making a song and dance statement in Apoca-Lips! This happens to be the designated #voomavaccinationweekend and yet I see apathy, complacency and not enough people speaking out. Those working in supermarkets, tech and other industries may feel safe in staying neutral but in the arts, we do not have that luxury. Get to Gate69 and show your appreciation and support and have a fab evening of cabaret.

Apoca-Lips! at Gate69. Supplied.
Apoca-Lips! at Gate69 – 2021

Performers: Christopher Dudgeon, Ruby-Anne Burton, Devon Marshbank, Sean John Louw and Amy Reed
Musical direction: Melissa Van der Spuy
Choreography: Sven-Eric Müller

Lighting and sound design: Eastern Acoustics
Costumes: The Unreel Arthouse