Theatre review:  Man Band II at the new The Kalk Bay Theatre at the Brass Bell, Cape Town, opened Nov 2020

What: Man Band II When: Until January 16, 2021 – selected nights – Thurs, Fri, Sat & some Wednesdays. Will be a break over festive season Where: Kalk Bay Theatre Address: The Brass Bell, Main Rd, Kalk Bay, 7975 Tickets: R185 Bookings: Quicket KBT website:  

The Kalk Bay Theatre is in full swing with its launch show, Man Band II, at its new home, at The Brass Bell restaurant. As with Man Band – edition 1- the sequel is fun and energetic. I loved Man Band II and am thrilled that the Kalk Bay Theatre is up and riding again. It is like reconnecting with a friend. You haven’t seen each other in months but you can resume and pick up, exactly where you were last in the conversation. Immediately, you are on the same page as you laugh and enjoy being together again. This is how I felt being back at The Kalk Bay Theatre.

Photo: Leanne Evans- and featured image. Supplied.

In case, you missed it- during lockdown, the theatre had to vacate its previous premises. The previous site was across the road from the Brass Bell. To get to the new KBT, cross the road, at the Brass Bell sign, go under the subway tunnel, past the buskers (yeah, they are even there at night) and there is the Kalk Bay Theatre (in what used to be called The Bikini Bar). If you don’t step into the theatre, walk a few steps and you are at the entrance of the Brass Bell. The idea is to eat before the show and then swan over to the theatre. If you dine at the Bell (I recommend the grilled hake and chips R119- and amazing tartare sauce), you get priority seating in the theatre. Vanessa Harris – co-owner and operator of the KBT (with husband Ash Searle), arranges it all. She places her signature name-cards on seats/tables- for example Gorgeous George; Voluble Vanessa

When booking, indicate if you are booking for meal and dinner and Vanessa will sort it out. During Covid, she is placing people according to booking – two people sit as two; four as four. Seats are limited as per Covid regulations and it is not surprising that they are putting up the ‘full’ sign up- increasingly so – as there are not many live theatre options available at the moment. We will get to that. Keep reading.

The line-up for Man Band II features Liam McDermott, Ash Searle, Bradley Searle, Liam Gillespie, and Alex Tops. It is the same line-up as Man Band I– except for Liam Gillespie who replaces Gareth Christie who was in the 1st Man Band. Christie was unavailable for this season. Gillespie is a KBT vet and he stepped in – or let’s say danced in. He is a terrific dancer. These blokes know each other well –riffing off one another, jostling about.  It is not just about the song and dance but the palpable camaraderie in the band.  This fellowship extends to the audience. We know the performers. We become an extension of the act- singing and tapping along. If it wasn’t Covid, people would be dancing. Instead, we must stay in our places, with masks on.

In my opinion, this space presents an upgrade on the previous venue. The previous venue was theatre style seating, around a stage. The Brass Bell KBT is cabaret style. It is like a speakeasy, café-lounge – with a variety of seating configurations. From what I could see, there are tables at each grouping of seats.  We sat – socially distanced – very nicely – in our bubble – with a teensy wooden table – to place drinks on- if we were drinking. We chose not to drink in the theatre as it is Covid but many others were drinking. We kept our masks on throughout. However, we dined before at The Brass Bell and obviously we didn’t keep our masks on, when we ate. What’s the difference between dining time and theatre time? Good question. It’s all very arbs –arbitrary at the moment. Some may argue, that there are open windows in the restaurant. Nowadays, it is very arbs. We chose to keep our masks on, in the theatre, during the show.

As I write, Tuesday, 8 December 2020, Lockdown Level 1, Day 80, there is a surge in infections of Covid and some theatres are shutting down until 2021.  Others are continuing to operate – with safety protocols in place. As I have mused in other reviews, during these days of Covid, each time, we walk out of home, we take a measured risk, when we leave the supposedly safe haven of our homes. Who knows? The virus may be transmitted to our homes– via a delivery or whatever.  It comes down to personal choice and that must be framed against health and other issues. Please remember that. It is tricky but that is the situation and it may go on like this for months.

Temperature checks, contact tracing -that is happening at theatres (enforced by KBT) and at some restaurants (enforced at the Bell). I feel ‘safer’ at the theatre than I do at the supermarket. But, ‘safe’ is a tenuous concept right now. We are living in bizarre times. That is the reality. Watching Man Band II is an escape from reality.

Back to Man Band II. The show features a cool playlist – with classics like Blue Moon (The Marcels), Bye Bye Love (The Everly Brothers) and The Beatles classic- Can’t Buy Me Love. Okay, I have the love. Can I buy the vaccine, please? Just asking.

All up, it is fabulous to be back at The Kalk Bay Theatre. The venue is a great fit with Followspot (the production arm of the KBT) and its feel-good entertaining shows. I look forward to post Covid days, when we can dance. In the old venue, one could kind of swivel (I refuse to say ‘pivot’) in the narrow strip in the row of seats and then swarm onto the dance floor, afterwards. At the Kalk Bay Theatre at The Brass Bell, it is cabaret style seating. There is space to move. Here is to days ahead. Wishing team Kalk Bay Theatre/Followspot great success in its new home.

Check in with the theatre website – for news of comedy and music nights. As for festive season, Vanessa Harris says that the theatre usually closes – around December 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27. The same is likely to apply this year. There is a pandemic but the festive season is the festive season. A break is needed for all involved. There may be a New Year’s Eve performance but they obviously cannot do a NYE bash (dancing etc) because of Covid. Check back on TheCapeRobyn for updates.

Man Band II – production credits

Performers: Liam Mcdermott, Ash Searle, Bradley Searle, Liam Gillespie, Alex Tops Choreography: Ash Searle and Vanessa Harris Lighting and sound: Vanessa Harris Producer: Followspot  

Prepping before the show: The Kalk Bay Theatre, at The Brass Bell Theatre – November 2020. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

The Kalk Bay Theatre, at The Brass Bell Theatre – opened November 2020 – with cabaret/lounge style seating. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.