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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

PETER MAXWELL … BACK AT THE EDWARD (article first published : 2001-11-4)

Since the Edward Hotel changed hands some years ago, I have only visited it on a small number of occasions, all of them unsatisfactory. Particularly one evening when we took a friend from the UK (a former Savoy Hotel chef, to add insult to his injury!) and the food was virtually inedible.

So, I admit that it was with some trepidation that I mounted the stairs to this historic Durban landmark to review Peter Maxwell’s show. The Protea Hotel Edward is again under new management and still undergoing refurbishment but it was a point in their favour that they decided to revisit the attractions that made the hotel so popular for many years. Among these is Peter Maxwell’s supper theatre show which he performed regularly over the festive season and became as much a part of the Durban beachfront at Christmas as the rickshaws and TJ numberplates. Then came the management change and it was decided that his shows were no longer relevant for the hotel’s new image.

For me, one of the strongest impressions of the Edward was been the foyer area with its magnificent oval table supporting an impressive floral arrangement which reaches up to the crystal chandelier above. Well, it’s all still there – as are the ladies toilets with cubicles large enough to take a crinoline! In the restaurant, there are thick piled carpets, shining crystal glasses, gleaming cutlery and crisp white napkins. All as it used to be.

Think Maxwell, think robust humour, good piano playing, a lot of mickey-taking and a generous style. If you sit close to the piano, be prepared to be in the “firing line”. He is merciless, but all in a good spirit of fun.

What is there one can say about him that hasn’t been said before over his long and impressive relationship with Durban? Now back on his old stamping ground of 50 odd years, one can experience a little bit of Durban’s history. He still has a three octave voice, can produce exquisite sounds from his beloved Yamaha Clavinova and can belt out a raucous sing-a-long with the best. He can tell a good story and offers his philosophy on life, compassion and tolerance of one’s fellow beings without sounding pompous.

He does justice to songs like What a Wonderful World, Yesterday, Memory and his own Durban Town as well as his tribute to his late mum, Wind Beneath My Wings. Suffice it to say that he still pulls the audiences. This is also the man who holds the world record for playing an electric piano in a hot air balloon in 1983 above Northam in West Australia!

Now to the food – I am happy to say that it expunges all previous unsavoury memories. It’s a winner and the best on the supper theatre circuit at the moment. The menu may change but last night we had a choice of Smoked Salmon – a very generous helping although a bit incongruous served with roast vegetables – or Baked Beetroot and Butternut. I had the Rack of Lamb main choice which was delicious and cooked to perfection for my tastes. My husband had the Grilled Kingklip and was equally satisfied with that. For dessert I chose the Honey & Marscapone Mousse with Khalua custard cream, a suitably frothy and light closure to the meal. The other choice was a Crčme de Cassis Mousse on Strawberry Coulis.

Peter Maxwell is performing in a small room near the Causerie – it’s pleasant enough with its wide windows overlooking the balcony and the lights of the funfair in the distance. It proves a bit of a challenge to the performer in terms of the fact that there’s a large pillar structure dividing the room. The genial entertainer makes light of this, remarking that it’s like watching a tennis match – check out one side of the audience and then another.

However, the constant to-ing and fro-ing in the passage in the first part of the show as people head for the Causerie buffet is a bit disconcerting and perhaps the screens at the entrance could be closed a little more. There were also a few teething problems in terms of service but by the end of the evening, the problems had been sorted out and we were back to good old Edward efficiency.

The show runs until November 24 and with tickets at R95 for the show and the three-course meal, it’s the best priced supper theatre entertainment at the moment. Book through Mercia at the Protea Hotel Edward on (031) 337-3681 or fax (031) 337-3628.




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