Close to Pretoria CBD (central business district – downtown) lies an old, partly abandoned theatre. The Breytenbach Theatre (Breytie to those that know her) has a long and colorful history; from humble beginnings as a German Community Hall to a hospital and eventually as a film and artist’s studio. In 1955 the National Theatre Organisation (NTO) acquired the building and turned it into its current form, a theatre. The first production opened on 17 November 1958. Today, she serves as training ground for the students of Technikon Pretoria’s Department of Performing Arts Technology.
It was to the Breytie that we had been invited to a pop-up with a difference: the Mess & Co Burlesque Stage Door Review. It was not without a slight feeling of trepidation that we wound our way through the belly of Sunnyside, one of Pretoria’s more notorious areas. Once at the parking, a few cars looking like they had been left since the days of the Germans added to that feeling, but the guard was cheerful and we wagered that with so many cars the odds that ours would be the target was relatively low and ventured into the Breytie.
We might just as well have been entering into a parallel universe! People dressed in black with a touch of red (the evening’s dress code) mingled in the old lobby, sipping champagne laced with absinthe. The mood was one of anticipation; what would tonight’s event be all about?
When old bells that used to alert the audience that the show is about to commence rang, we were all ushered into the theatre. The surroundings were perfect: plush, red velvet all around and a stage with closed curtains. Some people, myself included, were getting a little confused at this stage though. Where will dinner be served? In the theatre?
But all was soon to be revealed. After the Mess & Co frontman had entered the stage in full theatric make-up and bid us welcome with a song and a dance, the curtains parted to reveal the stage: a perfectly set dining area!
The evening was an awesome whirlwind of food, wine and performances: a sultry jazz and blues band, fiery tango, cheeky burlesque and even a mentalist! Nothing I say will sum up the atmosphere like Hannes Strydom’s photos, so I am just going to give them to you. The light wasn’t quite conducive to iPhone photography, and towards the end of the evening there was most definitely too much red wine blur…
It was an evening to remember! We ate and drank, sang and danced, and made tons of new friends. You know the kind of party when you wake up the next morning with little napkins in your bag, scribbled with names, numbers and Facebook addresses? Well, the Facebook part was particularly useful, as I was able to figure out who was who from the late evening’s red wine fog ;).
Mess & Co regularly organise pop-up events in and around Pretoria, so if you are local be sure to follow them on Facebook.