Juke Box Hits

Jukebox Hits is a fun musical currently showing at the beautiful Rockwood Theatre at Sibaya Casino, just a few kilometres north of the Umhlanga CBD. The venue is a supper theatre and guests can either bring or order their own food. Drinks can only be purchased within the theatre.

The term ‘jukebox’ became popular in the 1940s/1950s or thereabouts and referred to a coin-slot machine that played music records. The most popular songs were played over and over. Jukebox Hits takes its cue from this idea and performs songs that were popular in the 1950s (with Elvis Presley), goes back to the days of swing in the 1930s, and then forward through the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Favourites include items from Queen, Louis Armstrong, Michael Jackson, and even some opera from Josh Groban. There are plenty of costume changes, a very accomplished band, and absolutely standout performances by vocalists Janine Cupido, Riyaan Cornelius and Percy Smith.

It’s important to have explained the above as the show does not, of course, contain only jukebox hits – but hits in general. Without some explanation the title could be misleading. The opening night of the show was a little lacking in atmosphere and polish. It felt stilted and performers ranged in their delivery from excellent to not so good. Hopefully these issues will be ironed out, as the concept and the potential for slickness is there. Jukebox Hits runs until 2 September 2018.

Book here: https://bit.ly/2NjNgBr




Ant Man & The Wasp: A Fun, Family Superhero Movie

Picture source: IGN Entertainment

Ant Man & The Wasp is the latest Marvel superhero movie to be released. A sort of an antihero, Ant Man (Paul Rudd) is full of foibles and weaknesses. His sidekick, the Wasp, definitely has things more together and Wasp’s quest to find her long-lost mother forms the plot of the film. There are several antagonists in Ant Man & The Wasp, none of them outright bad, all-powerful or unbeatable. The main opponent, Ghost, in particular, is motivated by the need to save herself from completely disappearing. Aside from some blasphemy, the film is clean and very well aimed at the middle grade child. It’s funny. The characters are likeable. And it even contains some scientific terms that’ll stretch this age group. For example, Wasp’s father, Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), says ‘Forget AI…., the future lies in the Quantum Realm’.

‘The Quantum Realm’ is where the Wasp’s mother has remained trapped for many years. Dr Pym and Hope/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) eventually create a machine that’ll help them reach the Quantum Realm. It’s a huge rocket-type contraption with the ability to travel through time whilst mitigating any concomitant effects. Trouble is, they need Scott Lang/Ant Man’s help because Ant Man’s been to the Quantum Realm before. It’s a problem because Ant Man happens to be under house arrest.

With some clever tricks Ant Man nevertheless joins the quest and the chase begins. Secondary characters, both goodies and baddies, come into play. Several are very funny, as are Ant Man’s suit accidents. Forced to use a faulty old suit Ant Man invariably shrinks and expands to the wrong size, with amusing results.

Ant Man & The Wasp is a fun, family, superhero movie that is currently showing at cinemas in South Africa. Enjoy it while the school holidays are on.


DINE4SIX: A Great Dining Experience

Lamb rack, mint jelly, horseradish

Do you enjoy good food? Eating out? But have no-one to go with? Then sign up for a dining experience with DINE4SIX. I attended a DINE4SIX event recently  and cannot recommend it highly enough. DINE4SIX is a platform through which people (six at a time) wanting to eat out can sign up for a restaurant dinner, together with people they haven’t necessarily met before.

The DINE4SIX event I attended was at an Umhlanga

A view of the ceiling in the private dining room at The Chefs Table, Umhlanga

restaurant called The Chefs Table. Now, a ‘chef’s table’ (notice the apostrophe) is a special dining experience that takes place in the kitchen of a restaurant. The chef serves a tasting menu to a small group of people explaining each course as it is served. So, a chef’s table is about fine dining. DINE4SIX combines these two concepts – meeting new people and fine dining – into one

Chicken thigh press, miso, shimeji, shiitake custard by Kayla-Ann Osborn

unique occasion. And the one I attended happened to be at the restaurant The Chefs Table.

Every one of the six people at my table agreed that getting to know the other diners really made the occasion.

‘I love meeting interesting people and learning about other points of view,’ said Barbie, a principal at a local school, at the end of the meal.

And Prabashni, another diner and architect at a local firm, said ‘We are all very different, but the common experience of appreciating food together made those differences acceptable.’ And that really is the key. Signing up for the experience (which you can do through the website https://dine4six.com) ‘takes the apprehension and difficulty out of meeting new people by hosting events that allow you to meet new and interesting people over a casual dinner at some of your city’s finest restaurants.’ (https://dine4six.com).

And a fine restaurant The Chefs Table certainly is. Our tasting menu – created by executive chef Kayla-Ann Osborn – consisted of six courses of beautifully presented food that included squid, pork, beef, chicken, lamb, and salted caramel dessert. My brief description really doesn’t do the dishes justice. I tasted things that included ‘murdered leek’, edible gold, pea brûlée (my favourite) and shiitake custard. I particularly enjoyed the Crispy squid with green curry, and the lamb rack, while my neighbour, Pat, said one of his favourites was the Angus beef Carpaccio and white anchovy.

I was the only teetotaler amongst us while all the others were served a different wine with each

P.S. I love you, salted caramel, biscuit tuile, blond chocolate, vanilla ice cream (notice the gold leaf) by Kayla-Ann Osborn

course by Mundy, a wine steward who is working up to be a sommelier. There is an option when booking to choose the meal with or without wine pairing.

Our party finally left The Chefs Table when the restaurant was closing and not another soul was in sight. Our late departure was probably because we had been talking so much. At this stage the handshakes that had opened our evening were dispensed with; everyone hugged their goodbyes and made their tired ways home. I hope I meet my fellow diners again some day. Bon appetit!

Dine4Six diners


Comic-style Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs is a Wes Anderson movie and Wes Anderson has a unique style that makes his productions quirky. My best example is The Grand Budapest Hotel (https://wp.me/p4c1s1-5M).

Photo: Press/Fox Searchlight

Wes Anderson tropes in Isle of Dogs are:

  • The creation of a separate world. In this stop-motion animation the world is ‘Trash Island’ off the coast of Japan. It’s a place where all the unwanted stuff goes – trash (obviously) and, in this case, dogs. Also, several of the characters speak Japanese and are not always translated into English. One of these is the cat-loving dog-hating Mayor Kobayashi who banishes dogs to Trash Island in the first place. There is a theatricality about being aware of this separate world and I did feel like I was watching a Japanese comic book production.
  • Children act like adults – in this case 12-year-old Atari who endangers his life in a mission to find his beloved dog Spots. Atari actually flies an aeroplane to the island, crash lands and spends the rest of the time hobbling around with a bad leg and a black eye. Another child on the mainland (an unfortunate choice I felt of an American exchange student Tracy Walker) uncovers the sinister plot behind the whole story and the two children heroically bring about change.
  • Speech patterns – The dogs – although not children – speak in distinctive adult tones and most of the lines are delivered deadpan which definitely adds to the comical nature of the film. It is this trope, mostly, that keeps Isle of Dogs from being a purely children’s animated film.

I enjoyed the ‘comic-book’ feel of the film. But I don’t think it’s a film many will enjoy. The fact that it was released in South Africa through Cinema Nouveau is perhaps an indication that it isn’t aimed at the majority of viewers. Alissa Wilkinson (https://bit.ly/2GkLNYv) felt that the downfall of Isle of Dogs was its lack of an important message. I disagree somewhat. I think the separate island for storing the unwanted is a modern theme that resonates in our global, trash-overflowing society.

Isle of Dogs is currently showing at cinemas in South Africa.


Incredibles 2

The Incredibles are back with a new adventure. In this second instalment Mr and Mrs Incredible (Parr) combine family life with disaster

Image supplied by Ster Kinekor

prevention and advocating for the rights of superheroes. This time around it’s Helen Parr (Elastigirl) who brings home the bacon, while hubby, Bob, stays home to look after the kids. The latter is exhausting for Bob as he deals with teenage angst from Violet, homework challenges with Dash, and the emerging superhero talents of baby Jack-Jack. Helen begins work for a superhero advocate but is soon up against a dodgy ‘screenslaver’ who hypnotizes goodies into doing his (or her?) bidding. When both Mr and Mrs Incredible get into an impossible situation it’s up to Violet , Dash and Jack-Jack to set things right.

Themes of women’s rights, stay-at-home dads, children’s contributions in an adult world, and overuse of screen time run throughout this Pixar animated feature which is as much for adults as it is for children. Edna Mode, the inimitable superhero fashion designer, makes another marvellous appearance.

Incredibles 2 opens at cinemas in South Africa today 15 June 2018.

Solo: A Story of Han

I like prequels. I think they’re a creative way of imagining a character’s past, or creating a past for an undeveloped character. Wide Sargasso

Solo: A Star Wars Story (superherohype.com)

Sea, a book by Jean Rhys, might be considered a prequel. In Wide Sargasso Sea Rhys develops a character from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: that of the mad wife. Rhys gives her a past and a personality, a voice, and a reason for why she is cast as the silent, voiceless shut-away in Brontë’s classic.

In Solo: A Star Wars Story, it is Han Solo’s past that is imagined. Viewers are given the reasons for Han’s friendship with Chewbacca, for how Han (played by Alden Ehrenreich) acquired his ship, and how his skills at flying and fast problem-solving were developed. We see how he got the surname ‘Solo’ and why he’s a homeless vagabond. Han’s love for girlfriend, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), is also explored and in fact forms the basis of the plot. What remains undeveloped by the end, though, is Han’s understanding of other people’s motives, including those of Qi’ra. Han remains a fairly naïve, gung-ho youngster, compared to the weary, battered, cynical Han we know from the main Star Wars stories.

Fast action starts from the very first scene and is maintained at a good pace throughout. An exciting scene involving a double-sided high-speed train is pretty exciting. Woody Harrelson as fellow crook, Beckett, and Paul Bettany as main bad guy, Dryden Vos, are good in their roles.

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens at cinemas in South Africa today, 25 May 2018.

Boy’s Life is on My Own Pile of Classic Reads

In an interview with Robert McCammon, about his book Boy’s Life, the author relates a touching story:

A woman wrote me several years ago to tell me that her elderly father had passed away, and that she wanted me to know he had asked that a copy of his favorite book be buried with him [- Boy’s Life]. He had read it over and over, she said. So many times that it was no longer a book. It was a constant companion.

In that same interview the author said that years after he had written Boy’s Life he walked into a bookstore, went to look at ‘The Classics’

Boy’s Life is currently only in my ‘virtual’ library’. I am awaiting a hard copy.

table and there, amongst Dickens and Hugo and Steinbeck, was his very own book Boy’s Life. Well, on my own little pile of classics in my small library at home I have recently added this one of McCammon’s. It’s a treasure I now love. I want to show it off and keep it close.

I read Boy’s Life recently at bedtime. Instead of dozing off as is my wont I found myself laughing and crying at the story of protagonist, 12-year-old Cory Mackenson, and the many, many characters that peopled his life. I identified with the depiction of 1960s childhood in southern USA, and delighted in exploring the imaginary world created by the author.

‘Imaginary’ or ‘magical realism’ is an important element in this book. It’s a device used to show the main character’s transition from childhood to adulthood. Therefore, many scenes are written in such a way that the reader is not quite sure if what happened was real or simply in the character’s imagination. Did Cory really defeat a huge water monster? Did a triceratops really save him from a kidnapper? Was the mayor a sinister character or not?

Whether the experiences were real or not, the move from childhood to adulthood for Cory involves the uncovering of both evil and good. Law enforcement gone bad. Dodgy grandparents. Racism. Gambling, moonshining and gangsterism. Loving parents. Bravery. Spiritualism. Forgiveness. Cory stumbles across or is faced with all of these in the children, adults and townspeople of his hometown. And the real-life murder that Cory and his father, Tom Mackenson, come across in the opening pages of the book forms the basis for all these different strands of the tale.

But very importantly, the author gets across the message that children can grow into adults without losing the magic of childhood. Whatever good or bad they uncover they can retain that magic. The main character says in the introduction to the book: When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future.

And that past for Cory takes the reader through delightful tales of summer with friends, hilarious church experiences, schoolyard fights, bicycle rides, writing competitions, love for pets, loss of friends and death. Boy’s Life covers it all. The universal human experience. Perhaps that’s why it was on ‘the classics’ table of a bookshop McCammon visited. It’s certainly why it’s on mine.