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

THE LEGEND OF EAGLES (article first published : 2003-04-12)

The new Dockyard Supper Theatre on the Point Waterfront opened its doors last night to a great fanfare of activity for Stuart Mey’s musical tribute show, The Legend of Eagles. Situated in what was Moby Dick’s and then The Mixer, the Dockyard is a comfortable yet upmarket venue with a “balcony” area which has its own bar. Both floors open out onto open spaces so those who smoke don’t have to feel like social outcasts!

The Dockyard is billed as the supper theatre with the best view in town. There’s certainly no question about that. The surroundings are highly picturesque, right on the edge of the harbour channel. The stage backs on to a glass window and the top portion is kept open during the breaks so that patrons can see the lights of the harbour beyond.

Stuart Mey first presented his The Legend of Eagles at the Unit 6 Theatre in Springfield Park. In this more accessible venue, the show is liable to attract fans of the Eagles for this full-on and enjoyable tribute.

Placed on one side of the stage are three guitarists who between them represent a wealth of musical experience – the inscrutable Gerald Knott, tall Glen Turrell with his glorious deep voice and the appealing Dave Atkinson. Moving round the stage, there’s Ian Webster on drums; Evan Roberts – enjoying his low profile as a group member – on keyboards, and the enigmatic featured guitarist Andy Turrell who also performs on pedal steel.

The first half seemed fairly staid and I put this down to the fact that Stuart Mey is a large – in all aspects! – act to follow and Shanthan Pillay and Stuart’s daughter Nicky didn’t always match his presentation: Nicky occasionally in numbers unsuited to her vocal range and Shanthan seemingly lacking his usual energy. In his defence, I discovered afterwards that he was required at the last minute to take over some of Stuart’s numbers as he is battling with a sore throat.

The performance after interval was a different story altogether. It started off with a beautiful a capella version of Seven Bridges Road. After that, it was as if high voltage had been injected into the cast and the show just took off with numbers such as The Heat is On and Get Over It. The lighting also played a far stronger role.

The Dockyard needs to find its niche on the Supper Theatre scene. Is it to provide sophisticated cabaret shows like the Royal Hotel Backstage or The Playhouse Cellar; adult pantomime and musical fun such as the Geejay’s new show at Lango’s Theatre, or the kind of musical compilation shows put on by The Barnyard Theatre?

I believe that the genre of supper theatre is driven by the word “theatre” which demands a dramatic content to lift the production out of the “concert” mode. With nine people on stage – vocalists and musicians, not to mention instruments, cabling and speakers - there’s not a lot of space to move around despite the generous size of the Dockyard stage. Therefore, the dramatic content has to come from other sources such as speech, and this is provided by the very laid-back Stuart Mey. Or exciting lighting effects – and this is certainly in place with Brandon Bunyan’s lighting design.

Another dramatic tool is to place strong visual focus on numbers by individual performers or featured musicians. The Dockyard could do with a couple of follow spots and the technical ability to take the rest of the stage into a quieter lighting state so that audience members are in no doubt as to where their focus should lie. Dave Atkinson’s Lyin’ Eyes and Shanthan Pillay’s Desperado are a case in point.

We sat on the upperlevel where the tickets are slightly more expensive. The menu is extensive for a supper theatre venue. As there were three of us, we were able to sample nearly all the items and found them successful. My starter prawn cakes were light and crispy although the main choice, Chicken Fajita, was visually daunting as the plate was over-filled with the various components of the dish. The chicken itself was succulently delicious and the Lemon Meringue Cheecake for dessert was enjoyable. Other choices are: starters – Mozzarella Sticks, Dockyard Salad or Nachos; and for main course: Line Fish, Sirloin or Pasta Pronto (suitable for vegetarians).

Knowing what it is like – fortunately, for only a brief time - to get round the theatre scene in a wheelchair it is good news that the Dockyard has wheelchair access. It also has secure parking.

The Legend of Eagles runs from April 9 to May 17. Tickets vary according to the seating and range from R65 to R85, with a three-course meal at R70. There is a discounted price for a one-course meal on Sundays. Book at Computicket or phone 083 915 8000 or at the Dockyard on 031 332 1086. - Caroline Smart




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