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CAFÉ OLE (article first published : 2003-07-25)

Four of Durban’s most popular performers, Carol Trench, Stacey Taylor, Melvin Peters and Bongani Sokhela team up at Lango’s Theatre for the next three weeks to present a fascinating exploration of coffee culture through the genre of supper theatre.

Perhaps this is an appropriate opportunity to discuss what makes up the unique Durban legitimate arts discipline of “supper theatre” as opposed to cabaret or music shows. Long before The Playhouse became solely a hiring venue, its four theatres: The Opera, Drama, and Loft were too expensive for the average local theatre company to use and the valuable experimental Studio dropped out of the scene when it was turned into recording studio.

Performing artists began to look for alternative venues in which to showcase their work. Thus a vibrant supper theatre circuit was introduced and this encompasses the already-established Cellar at the Playhouse, the Lango’s Theatre, The Royal Hotel’s Backstage to which has been added the franchised Barnyard Theatre, the new Dockyard Supper Theatre and the community Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo.

True supper theatre, I believe, is virtually a mini musical – a little version of a Sound of Music, La Cage aux Folles or Rocky Horror Picture Show - where a storyline or a theme incorporates musical numbers and dramatic dialogue as opposed to links. This means that Café Ole directed by Michael Broderick currently running at Lango’s Theatre is perfect musical theatre scaled down to a supper theatre format. In the “old days”, it would probably have had a run in the Drama Theatre. Giving each other names like Machiatto (Carol Trench); Skinny Latte (Stacey Taylor), L’Espresso (Melvin Peters) and Chocolat Chaud (Bongani Sokhela), they present a full-on and highly enjoyable two-act production.

There is much tongue in cheek humour from Jon Solem’s script. Both Stacey Taylor and Carol Trench are given full rein to present their singing and dramatic skills, with Carol proving that she has the ability to crack an operatic aria like O mio babbino caro.

The visual imagery is certainly very strong and its impact reaches audience members as they arrive at the venue. Leisure Lounge have sponsored the display of comfortable furniture in the foyer and Josef van Schalkwyk has produced an elegant and sumptuously draped set in shades of bronze and coffee tones, although the various lampshades seem a little illogical.

The songs obviously all have a coffee theme such as the Andrews Sisters’ Proper Cup of Coffee as well as Brazil, Baghdad Café, Coffee’s Best, Sugar in my Bowl and Frank Sinatra’s Coffee Song. It’s an honest and uncontrived production and well worth a visit.

The ticket price includes a three-course meal. For starters, there’s Warm Duck Salad (pronounced enjoyable by a colleague); Mini Baguette with Mozarella and Sundried Tomatoes, and Garlic Snails. I had the latter and liked the introduction of a light bechamel sauce. I was happy with my Steak au Poivre but those who had the Linefish Meuniere felt that it was too dry. The other option is Chicken Tortilla. For dessert, there’s Cappuccino Crème Brule.

Café Ole runs at Lango’s Theatre in Durban North from July 24 to August 10. Shows are Tuesday to Saturday at 20h30 and Sunday at 18h30. Bookings through Lisa on 031 563 7324. – Caroline Smart




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