Utterly overlooked by those not ‘in-the-know’, one traffic-dominated corner of the Waterfront holds a magical gem that defies the space time continuum. A step through the Madame Zingara archway is a step through the looking glass. As guests – all dressed up for the occasion in everything from black tie to face paints or onesies – move from the quirky outdoors bar through the stained glass doors of the outer tent, the commercial bustle of the Waterfront disappears into a black hole of irrelevance.
In the dark anteroom leather chairs, Victorian furniture and stuffed buck sit cheek by jowl with a giant glitter ball and the golden skeleton of a pumpkin coach. To one side is a darkly mirrored bar, to the other is a boutique shop area filled with laughter as guests rummage gleefully through assorted hats and masks and fascinators, wings and costume jewellery and feather boas and stick-on moustaches.
The third and final step is into the Tent of Dreams itself, the domain of Madame Zingara, a three levelled velvet speigeltent echoing with the ghosts of 100 years. What daylight is left trickles through two rings of small windows at the top of the first and second tiers, supplemented by the flickering candlelight from 70 tables reflected a thousand times from the many mirrors lining the walls. The spell is complete, and the entertainment is only just beginning.
A myriad cheerful waiters, all in low-budget high-spirited fancy dress, zip and bob about the room as though on wheels, so it’s not unusual to see Peter Pan being chased between tables by a Cuban revolutionary while a boy in a wig and a coconut bra delivers your entrée: a deliberately simple collection of nibbles – perfect for dipping into while craning around to take in every aspect of the tent. There is an option of main courses (the signature chilli chocolate fillet is highly recommended) with a set first course (ravioli) and a chocolate assortment for dessert – all particularly impressive given that up to 400 people are served at once from a pop up kitchen at the back.
But the lifeblood of the evening is without doubt the entertainment. The promotional images quickly pale in the light of the bizarre reality that is Madame Zingara. Mere pictures cannot convey the pulsing sexiness of the bath dancer, or the terrifying blur of the new Mongolian foot jugglers, while the grace, sweet poise and sheer elasticity of the Kazakhstani contortionists has to be seen to be believed.
Theatrically the show has, if possible, improved over the months. Cathy Specific is now thrilling audiences at the Fugard Theatre as Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, leaving Zingara’s own Mad Hatter, Hot Mr C, as the sole host, a change which in fact gives the show far more cohesion. The former vulgarity and relentless innuendo has softened to a cheeky bawdiness, so even in an audience ranging from 12 years to 85 years, no one is likely to cringe.
Relaxed by the mood and the wine, and spurred on by the laughing encouragement of the waiting staff, guests are urged to get up and dance at their tables, in the aisles and on the stage. The tent, it appears, transforms people. There is no room for reticence with Madame Z. When we left after 2am, the party was still going.
Madame Zingara is a fun, seductive, be-anyone-you-want-to-be experience, best enjoyed as one of a large party. Drop the inhibitions, dress up and drink it in. And be prepared to be entranced by the Zingara magic.
Madame Zingara’s ‘The Miracle Tour’ at the Theatre of Dreams in the Waterfront has been twice extended by popular demand since 16 January 2013. It is due to be replaced in October by the latest Zingara show, ‘After Forever’ and will transfer to Johannesburg in January 2014. Times: Tues to Sat @ 7pm for 7.30pm Cost: R 410 to R 495 per person including a welcome cocktail and a four course meal (drinks and service extra). Booking essential.
Madame Zingara’s Bijoux Boutique is open to the public from 9am to 5pm every day.