Sommeliers Selection Wine Festival

Press release below:


Sommeliers Selection Wine Festival – learn about wine that goes well with food

The Sommeliers Selection wine festival takes place at the Tsogo Sun Hyde Park Hotel on Thursday, September 28, from 17h00. Wine lovers will have the opportunity to try wines, from top estates, voted the best by South Africa’s top sommeliers and those that pair well with food and offer competitive value against other contenders. Tickets, which are limited to 150 people, are R200 which includes a glass and are available from Webtickets. Go to or book on


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The Mystery of Irma Vep


The Mystery of Irma Vep, now playing at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, is a stylish and hilarious two hour romp through a spoof on a variety of entertainment genres, not least of which was the Victorian “penny dreadful” sensational serial stories which fed the newly literate masses of a bygone era.

Other points of reference include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. “Irma Vep” is an anagram for the word “Vampire” as well as the name of a character in the 1915 French movie serial Les Vampires.

Written by Charles Ludlum in 1984 as a high camp drama for his own Off Broadway theatre company, the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, this work has, oddly, survived as a comedy theatre classic in its own right.

Mystery 3

Weslee Swain Lauder as Lady Enid in The Mystery of Irma Vep

Set in a mansion called Mandacrest somewhere on the moors, there are only two actors playing the role of eight characters in a hugely convoluted and confusing plot involving vampires, werewolves, and Egyptian mummies that come to life.  The two actors are Jonathan Roxmouth and Weslee Swain Lauder. The costume changes are almost as fast as lightning and each of them alters, often radically, their gaits, voices and facial expressions to bring the different characters to life.  Amazingly they never get them confused.

Mystery 2

Directed by Elizma Badenhorst, the most surprising thing about The Mystery of Irma Vep is the level to which she gets the audience to care about these odd characters and weird twists in the tale.  I was expecting it to be very little more than an evening of comedy, but I was soon caught up in the gripping melodramatic whodunit.

From the lofty phrases of Shakespeare (“murdered sleep”) through the mispronunciation of the word “sarcophagus” – several times – to the lowbrow gag of having Nicodemus hopping on one leg when his wooden one lands up somewhere on stage, there is something for everyone to find funny.  I laughed till my belly ached.  My favourite line is the remark that Nicodemus cannot join Lady Enid in the drawing room “for obvious reasons” (ie. they are both played by Weslee Swain Lauder).

All round this is wonderful production.  Ludlam’s play itself is witty and combines parody, melodrama and satire most convincingly.  It is beautifully directed by Elizma Badenhorst, with the high camp acting by Jonathan Roxmouth and Weslee Swain Lauder always being top notch, and scenic design by Nadine and Louis Minnaar, lovely lighting by Oliver Hauser, wardrobe design by Pierre du Plessis and a wonderful sound design composed by Wessel Odendaal.

All round this a most entertaining and amusing piece of theatre, and it is sure to please just about everyone.  I recommend it highly.

The Mystery of Irma Vep plays at the Pieter Toerien Montecasino Theatre till 30 July 2017.  Booking at Computicket or the theatre.

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Sorry to be missing the Festival Gala Concert

Every year when I don’t attend the National Arts Festival, I look through the programme and wish that I were attending certain things.  Today it  is the Festival Gala Concert with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Richard Cock.

The one off concert is at the Guy Butler Theatre on 8 July at 15:00.  It is a two hour programme of light, popular classical work.

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in the Cape Town City Hall.

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Ashoka Restaurant

Ashoka Restaurant, named for one of India’s most successful and benevolent rulers, has opened in the Times Square Casino, Menlyn Main, Pretoria.

I was present at a recent media dinner launch.

The decor is attractive and modern and there is a lovely patio just outside.  Gas fires were burning and the evening was sufficiently mild for us not to be in a hurry to take our tables indoors.  Ashoka is billed as five star, and nothing in the appearance belies this.

A mehendi (henna body art) artist painted our hands with simple patterns, a feature which will be one of the signatures of the new restaurant, much like the black and white facepaint of Moyo’s.

Our tasting started with vegetable and meat starter platters.



Vegetarian starter platter at Ashoka


Non vegetarian starter platter at Ashoka

I particularly liked the vegetarian samoosas and the chicken.  My partner found the chicken bland.  I’m not sure what they did to the paneer, but it was pleasant. I usually don’t like it much.  The portions were generous and the platters were replenished when empty.

For mains we had a choice between butter chicken, lamb rogenjosh and dal makhni and muttar mushrooms.  I went for the lamb rogenjosh, while my partner opted for the vegetarian option.  We all tasted everyone else’s and my partner decided that the butter chicken (which almost melted in the mouth) was nicest.  I liked the muttar mushrooms a lot.


Lamb rogenjosh at Ashoka


Dal Makhni and muttar mushrooms with peas at Ashoka

For dessert we we given carrot halwa samoosas and coconut kulfi (icecream).  I am diabetic and declined mine, asking for a portion of muttar mushrooms in its place.  A strange request which did not throw the kitchen.

I paired my food with the Devils Peak Craft Beer, a light beer which I enjoyed very much.


Carrot halwa samoosas and coconut icecream at Ashoka

So, how was the food overall.  One of the problems with Indian cuisine is that it is like mother’s cooking.  Everyone prefers the taste of their local favourite.  I like my dal makhni to be a heart attack in waiting on the plate – swimming in ghee and cream.  I am not fond of butter chicken generally, finding it bland everywhere I have it (except when a friend makes it), and I like my lamb rogenjosh on the spicy side.  What I got was pleasant and tailored to the taste of the majority.  I realise that this was a media night with a great many meals coming out at once and it would be impossible to cater for the range of people who like their food hot/medium/mild, and I suspect that the meals tailored for individual palates would probably be considerably better.

Would I go back?  Certainly if I lived locally or was visiting the casino for some specific reason.

All in all it was a very pleasant evening.




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I am so jealous of all the people at the National Arts Festival this year. Today I wish I were hearing Pendo Masote in concert.

Pendo Masote

Pendo Masote, photo courtesy of National Arts Festival

Pendo Masote is a young violinist who is making waves in classical music circles.

He will be playing at the Graham Hotel in the Beethoven Room today (30 June) at 16:00 and tomorrow (1 July) at 12:00 and 19:00.

His concert includes some contemporary hits on an electric organ in addition to the more classical numbers.


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Betrayal, brave theatre

At a time when the arts are even more stretched than usual, Daphne Kuhn, owner of The Auto & General Theatre on the Square and independent and unsubsidised producer, sometimes takes on a project of artistic merit, but somewhat dubious financial viability. Betrayal, a 1978 play by British writer, Harold Pinter, is probably one such work.  It is brave theatre.


Directed and designed by Greg Homann, lit by Oliver Hauser, and with a cast of seasoned actors, this play should, theoretically, have flown better than it did.  It felt stilted and I couldn’t work out if it was the fault of the script or the actors or the director.  At times the audience was compelled to laugh at what were essentially serious lines.

Anthony Coleman played the role of Robert, the wronged husband, while his wife, Emma, is played by Carly Graeme,  Tom Fairfoot plays the role of Robert’s friend and Emma’s lover. Jose Domingos plays the small role of waiter.

The theme of betrayal in sexual relationships is as old as time itself, and only Robert’s admission that he has hit Emma a few times, just because her felt like “bashing her about” is shocking in the modern context.

All round, this was a wonderful opportunity to see a work not often performed, and something out of the ordinary.




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I’m sorry I’m missing Nil today

Gavin Krastin is a talented and challenging performance artist.  I am sorry I will not be at the National Arts Festival to see his new work, Nil.

Part show-and-tell and part actionism, Nil is loosely inspired by “The 12 Labours of Hercules” as a performance endeavour that embarks on the task of undoing and dismantling oneself. The performance runs for 4 nights only:  29 June – 2 July 2017 at 20:00 at the Masonic Front (Masonic Hall), corner of African and Hill Street, Grahamstown.

Gavin Krastin Nil

Gavin Krastin, Nil


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