Madame Zingara spiegeltent by Anton de Beer header
The magical Spiegeltent welcomes 650 dining guests for Madame Zingara's 'The Celebration Tour'

At DECO, we’re a work-hard play-hard bunch, so when our Fashion Issue finally wrapped, we were thrilled to be invited to the thrilling big top cirque dinner experience of Madame Zingara. Read our highlights from a night to remember: The Celebration tour.

Madame Zingara has come home to the Mother City. After a sell-out run in Durban, and before jetting off to Jozi at the end of the year, South Africa’s most glamorous, talented travelling circus troop has arrived in Cape Town – taking up unmissable residence on the Grand Parade opposite City Hall until the end of September. Already very much on our to-do list this winter, DECO was thrilled when our invitation arrived to experience the show in its very first week.

A mixture of experienced Zingarans and Madame Z virgins, six of Team DECO donned our glad rags and made our way to the imposing big top tent in the heart of town, ready for a night to remember. From the moment we stepped through the door, we knew we were in for a treat.

Madame Zingara The Celebration entrance

Transported to another world from the entrance, Zingara guests are encouraged to embrace the carnival atmosphere. Pre-show entertainment – from showmen working the queue, spooking and delighting in equal measure, to compare Cathy Specific waltzing through the halls – is non-stop. Wandering around the labyrinthine lobby areas you’ll find something magical around every corner, from steampunk vodka bars and flower stalls to an upcycled helicopter and dress-up stations. Team DECO just couldn’t resist adding a little eye bling to the night’s proceedings.

Madame Zingara face painting
DECO’s Megan and Lucie indulge in some Zingara face painting whilst quick-change act, Christine and Ezequial, entertain the crowds

At Madame Zingara, every moment is a theatrical opportunity and you can check normality at the door along with your coat. Ushered to our table by men in penguin suits (in an ironic take on the usual maitre de tuxes, actual penguin suits) our hostess with the mostess, Angie, gave us the warmest of greetings and looked after us impeccably all evening with oodles of personality. As the wine flowed, we had a chance to look around the stunning spiegeltent – seating a whopping 650 around candlelit tables, the atmosphere crackled with dazzling spotlights, reflected mirror balls and the anticipation of the show yet to come.

Madame Zingara The Celebration tent

After the mandatory group photos (including a paparazzi moment with the Sunday Times), our three-course dinner choices were ordered (tough calls made between no fewer than six mains on offer that night), our candles were lit by three exuberant Frenchman wielding a giant red hot poker, six walking lampshades meandered past our table and the stage was set…

And what a show. We can’t possibly reveal all the surprises in store (and in any case, certainly couldn’t do it justice) but safe to say that DECO’s collective jaws hit the floor from the very first act. Human pyramids spinning diabolos off ten foot ribbons. Death-defying acrobatics from sensational trapeze artists flying through the air above your table. Gymnastic displays that defy all knowledge of what the human form can achieve, with all the grace and elegance of Russian ballet dancers – and all interspersed with lively comedic clowns and the ubiquitous handful of reluctant/gleeful audience participation.

Gymnastic displays that defy all knowledge of what the human form can achieve, with all the grace and elegance of Russian ballet dancers.

Madame Zingara Bethan Williams and Martin Alvez on aerial straps & Ukraine contortion by Anton de Beer
Bethan Williams and Martin Alvez tumble high above us on aerial straps | Astonishing Ukrainian contortion acrobats defy the limits of the human form | Image: Anton de Beer

Because we couldn’t possibly concentrate on such normality as eating during the show, as each course was served, Cathy Specific’s inimitable sassy cabaret kept us entertained with talented Dreamgirls singers belting out cross-generational musical medleys from Lourdes and Robin Thicke to Cilla Black and Dionne Warwick.

And if for one moment you’re thinking that serving 650 people at once must surely compromise on the food or service, you’d be wrong. With military precision, the army of penguins (who, through multiple costume changes, can reappear at any moment as toy soldiers, a Thunderbirds or Bob Marley during the course of your meal), deliver the whole table’s orders simultaneously, rectifying any errors in lightning-quick time.

Team DECO mostly opted for the sensational butternut gnocchi to start, topped with crispy sweet potato chips, a creamy sauce and toasted sage leaves and for mains divided between Zingara’s legendary chocolate chilli steak, lamb shank and a lighter salmon option. Quite how they deliver such quality food, to scale, on time, and serve it with a smile, is a mystery – but we were thoroughly impressed (though with just one vegetarian option of a mixed curry platter, if you’re a veggie who doesn’t do curry, you’d be fairly stuffed).

Madame Zingara chocolate chilli steak
The legendary Zingara chilli chocolate steak was a team favourite.

After the desserts were polished off and the final acts blew us away, the curtain call of cast and crew was endless. No surprise, it takes an army to create a masterpiece. With artists from all around the world – China, Ukraine, Argentina, UK, France and of course our own South Africans – this is a truly global family who are pulling off the most phenomenal feat night after night.

The intimacy and non-stop theatrical performance that’s created in every moment, the quality food and the infectious, intimate carnival atmosphere delivers an evening’s entertainment that even Cirque du Soleil can’t quite match.

Gruelling though it must be – after the first two week run, the Zingara clan is open for business seven nights a week – it appears that every one of the team adores their role and is proud to be part of what must be the greatest travelling show in South Africa. And they have every right to be. Internationally too – they are playing in the same territory as Cirque du Soleil; having experienced Cirque several times in London, whilst Zingara’s show may be on a smaller scale, the intimacy and non-stop theatrical performance that’s created in every moment, the quality food and the infectious, intimate carnival atmosphere delivers an evening’s entertainment that even Cirque can’t quite match.

Madame Zingara Cirque du Soleil aerial artist Saulo Sarmiento by Anton de Beer
Cirque du Soleil aerial artist Saulo Sarmiento stuns with acrobatics on an aerial pole | Image: Anton de Beer

As the confetti fell from the big top tent and Cathy Specific shimmied off stage to uproarious applause for the artists, DECO’s night ended with a spontaneous dance party on the stage to ‘90s Ultra Nate, The Black Eyed Peas and Chris Brown, as the revellers gathered for a last hurrah. We highly recommend you do the same – just make sure you catch The Social Butterfly for a dance and lose yourself in the crazy, beautiful, insanely talented world of Madame Zingara.


BOOK YOUR TICKETS

BROWSEmadamezingara.com

EMAIL: boxoffice@madamezingara.com

PHONE: +27 (0)86 162 3263

Tickets for Madame Zingara’s #TheCelebration are available from R650, including dinner.
Booking in Cape Town until the end of September 2015 and in Joburg’s Montecasino from 22 October.