Theatre review: Eros at Gate69, Cape Town, until May 2021

What: Eros Where: Gate69 Address: 87 Bree Street, Cape Town, 8001. Note – Eros is a LIVE show. It is not online When: From February 2021 –until end of May 2021 – hopefully Covid numbers stay stable Bookings: Tickets: R390 – R450 – includes tequila flavoured purple soft serve ice-cream. A vegan sorbet is also available Time: 7.30pm. Suggested arrival time- 6.30pm –red carpet, Covid protocols Dress code: Masks mandatory, smart Info: 021 035 1627/071 589 2915 Corporate bookings:    

Today, March 5, 2021, marks the day that the first Covid case was reported in South Africa. What does that mean? Well, we have lived with this pandemic for a year and let’s see what happens. For months, Cape Town theatres were shuttered. Some venues opened cautiously. There was a lot going on in October, November 2020 but by mid-December with the new variant on the rage, most venues brought the curtain down. Gate69 did the same and then it recently re-opened with Eros.  We went to see Eros, last Thursday. It was our first outing into an indoor theatre venue. It felt strange, after two months or so of hardly venturing anywhere. The show was fabulous. We laughed. We sang along. The ovation went on for a few minutes. It was great to be back at the theatre – basking in the energy and creativity of Eros. However it was like the old Jewish joke about the Rabbi who scores a hole-in-one on Yom Kippur [The Jewish Day of Atonement]. He cannot tell anyone as he is forbidden to be on the golf course on this day. That is how I felt when we watched Eros. It is a superb production – staged with signature Gate69 verve, self-deprecating humour, warmth and love. But, I was getting push-back from people about venturing into an indoor space as we were at the time in lockdown level 3, amended. I was amped and excited but who could I tell? Then on Sunday night, February 28, 2021, our president went on telly and told us that we are now in lockdown level 1. Suddenly, there were announcements of events, weddings, and barmitsvahs. The beaches are packed. Malls are packed. Is it “too soon”? No one knows how long this pandemic will be around. I know people who have gone “no-where” and got sick. I know people who have worn two masks, gloves, a shied and who have got infected. My choice is to wear a mask and venture out, sanitising madly. At theatres and an in cabaret style venues like Gate69, I ask for a socially distanced table. We were put upstairs in Business Class. Due to Covid limitation on sets, there was no one behind us. It is the choice spot on the balcony to watch this beautifully staged show. The balcony provides views of the catwalk and one can see the action unfolding. It is Eros – about love, kindness, humanity. This the Gate69 ethos and it is the cornerstone of all its shows. We need to accept ourselves and others – in every way. Gate69 has always been a ‘safe space’ and during Covid, the notion of ‘safe’ takes on additional resonances we would not have imagined before the pandemic changed our lives.

Eros is a fab show. The costumes and wigs are great; fabulous dancing and singing by cast- The Trolley Dollies- resident troupe and Kyle Jardine, Sean John Louw, Tyla Dee Nurden. The Trolley Dollies are Brendan van Rhyn, Christopher Dudgeon and Rudi Jansen. I was thrilled to see the fabulous Tyla Dee Nurden in action. I last saw Nurden in Pieter Toerien’s production of The Rocky Horror Show at Artscape in December 2019.That production was staged in South Africa, with a team from the UK and was inspired by the original production. Who would have thought in December 2019, that by March 2020, theatre would shut down in the pandemic? It is likely to be a long time before we see big musicals on stage and seeing Nurden on the Gate69 stage was like being transported back to big musicals. Nurden is a stand-out performer – lithe, athletic and she has a vital stage presence. One’s eye is drawn to her – whether she is solo or in an ensemble. Watching her in Eros and I am reminded at the talent of our musical theatre performers in South Africa. They have worked with creative teams from international productions. It is no wonder that they tend to be contracted for international touring shows and for seasons in major cities. They are snapped up because they are super talented and known for a work ethic of striving for perfection.

The Eros set is slick – like a puppet theatre on the stage- with a scrim made from elastics. It heighten the sense of voyeurism. It is like a peep show- in a good way. Everything has been made by the team. Each elastic strip was sewed by hand- group effort. In addition to performing, the artists serve the drinks and ice-cream. I loved every moment of being back at Gate69 and the clever and witty songs, dance and repartee.

As with all my reviews of live performance, during Covid, I reiterate that one should not venture into confined spaces if you are medically at risk. But, if you are in good health and do want an evening of sheer entertainment, get to see Eros at Gate69. Leave Covid behind and become immersed in Eros. The last show staged at Gate69 was Big Sister. That was its lockdown show and was very much holding a mirror to hard lockdown. It was hilarious – with the Trolley Dolleys in a bunker, WhatsApping and making banana bread. Eros is not a show which pivots around lockdown. It transports us through time- Adam and Eve, The Renaissance, Swinging 60s, innovations in romantic accessories, birth control, underwear. I am not going to plot spoil. Spoiler alert: At the end, there are references to masks that we may don. The message is of course that we need to affirm who we are and not hide behind a mask. Having said that, Eros is not a lockdown show. Eros takes us out of lockdown, away from the pandemic, out of ourselves to a place of affirmation and acceptance.

Eros at Gate69- 2021 season  

Cathy Specific – Brendan van Rhyn Dr Know-It-All – Christopher Dudgeon Nurse Fokkol – Rudi Jansen Dancers – Kyle Jardine, Sean John Louw, Tyla Dee Nurden Director – Christopher Dudgeon Choreographer – Sven-Eric Muller Musical director – Melissa van der Spuy Lighting – Christopher Dudgeon Sound – Eastern Acoustics Costumes – Organic Canvas + Tessa Denton Wigs – Tessa Denton      

✳Featured image: Kyle Jardine, Sean John Louw, Tyla Dee Nurden. Supplied.