The Mystery of Irma Vep Review

After months of anticipation, I finally got to see The Mystery of Irma Vep on stage at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino and I was in hysterics.

 Get in the right mood by listening to this ambient music while reading this.

Opening Night

#IrmaVepSA Play
The kinds of attention to detail that does so much more than set the tone

I was invited to an exclusive gala evening that didn’t disappoint. The foyer was decorated in a spooky Victorian style, including a coffin with a mummy on display. The dimly lit reception was illuminated by candles that were scattered all over the place in true Victorian fashion. Speaking of fashion, the dress code for the evening was ‘Victorian Chic’. I love to dress up so I enjoyed that touch because not many shows worry about the dress code. For me, what you wear is just as much a part of the experience so I was keen to participate. Most people didn’t go all out but some people dressed to the nines wearing top hats and tailcoats or corsets and feathers, which really added to the experience.

Guests were welcomed with a complimentary programme, new Cadbury Roundie and glass of wine. After mingling with the other theatre-enthusiasts we were ushered to our seats in a dimly lit theatre accompanied by creepy music to set the mood.

The Play

The Mystery of Irma Vep is a satire of several theatrical, literary and film genres, including Victorian melodrama, farce, the penny dreadful, Wuthering Heights and the Alfred Hitchcock film, Rebecca.  

#IrmaVepSA Set
The Mystery of Irma Vep set as guests arrive

Set on a remote manor called Mandacrest, the audience soon finds out something is amiss. Between the horrors of a marauding beast terrorising the estate and the looming presence of the recently deceased former mistress Irma Vep, matters become awkward in the extreme for Lord Edgar and his new wife, Lady Enid.

The cast of two, Jonathan Roxmouth (The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, West Side Story) and Weslee Swain Lauder (Sweeney Todd, Call Me Lee, Starlight Express) play the 8 distinct characters in the story. Not only are these two actors extremely gifted performers but the swapping of characters and costumes was remarkable. Their comedic timing and overall performances had the crowd in stitches from beginning to end. The story is intriguing and hilarious at the same time, which makes for quite a unique experience.

The staging and blocking of each actor was coordinated impeccably as they seamlessly transitioned between luny characters. The intricate wardrobe design by Pierre du Plessis, scenic design by Nadine and Louis Minnaar and lighting design by Oliver Hauser played key roles in immersing the audience in the story.

The show came together flawlessly and was a real crowd pleaser. If you like to laugh, then you’ve got to see The Mystery of Irma Vep. The production will be on at Pieter Toerien’s Theatre at Montecasino from 5 to 30 July and at Theatre On The Bay in Cape Town from 2 to 19 August 2017. Make your booking at Computicket and like the production’s Facebook page while you’re at it. Be sure to use the play’s hashtag on social media – #IrmaVepSA.

#IrmaVepSA 2017

Have you seen the show? What were your thoughts?

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An Honest Review of Janice Honeyman’s 2016 Pantomime

I haven’t been to many pantomimes, but the ones I’ve been to I’ve enjoyed. Unfortunately, I’ve got to admit that this year’s Janice Honeyman production of Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood was a bit of a dud for me.

Theatre review


The sets were incredibly done – something you can’t fault these productions on is the amount of work that goes into designing and creating the costumes, props, and sets. In terms of production, the play was top notch.

Reference to topical news – as we’ve all come to expect and love, the classic fairytale was brought to life with humour, and often made reference to recent news and pop culture in clever ways. Incorporating recognisable popular songs was also a lot of fun.

The villains were great – the characters were so over the top and hilarious that they really stole the show. More than the characters were the actors who brought them to life. Both the male and female villain were perfectly cast, which made all the difference.


The storyline was weak and ridiculous – there was no even semi-logical format for the story. Not only that, but the story was unnecessarily complicated with ‘plot twists’ that didn’t make a significant impact to the story, while others could’ve easily been explained but weren’t. In addition, certain parts of the story were absolutely random. The main villain is conquered by the random appearance of characters from pop culture that he has a phobia of… Surely there are more creative ways of concluding the story.

Robin Hood was by no means a hero – although Robin Hood is the main character of the story, his merry men seemed to do most of the rescuing, and as mentioned, he didn’t defeat the main villain in the end either.

I’m all for productions aimed at a younger audience, but this year’s pantomime was a disappointment. That’s not to say there weren’t elements I enjoyed, but overall I expected more. Usually, there is something in it for children and adults alike, but Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood seemed to not quite fit into any category. Let’s see if Honeyman can defend her title as the pantomime queen in 2017’s production.

Final thoughts: If you go to watch the pantomime every year, go and see it, but lower your expectations. If it’s a first for you, rather give it a miss. 

ZARIS Espresso Bar Review

While everyone else was swept up by the hype around Starbucks launching in South Africa, I had the privilege of attending the unofficial opening of the new kid on the block – ZARIS Espresso Bar. 
ZARIS review
ZARIS is situated on the corner of 4th Avenue & 11th Street in Parkhurst.

Located in Parkhurst, ZARIS offers fair trade, organic African coffee, as well as exceptional service at an affordable rate. What sets ZARIS apart for me is the atmosphere. Many other restaurants and coffee shops on 4th Avenue have seating on the pavement, which can sometimes be a part of the Parkhurst experience, but can also be somewhat unpleasant. ZARIS is located away from the busyness and allows you to enjoy Parkhurst without feeling like you’re in the way. The premises also has plenty of plug points for patrons to use, making this the perfect place to hold lunch meetings or get work done away from the office.

There are a combination of sweet and savoury eats on offer. Whether you’re in the mood for the cake of the day or are just popping in for lunch, you’ll find something to satisfy your hunger. Not only is the food great, but ZARIS prides itself on top quality coffee and other warm beverages – perfect for those chilly Joburg days.
love lock
Visitors can make their experience memorable by attaching their very own Love Lock to the wall.

The decor is fresh and modern, combining organic textures with industrial elements. Something I thought was a nice touch is that the wall in the upstairs area has a fence mounted onto it where visitors can attach a Love Lock! The look and feel of the space is inviting and comfortable while still being edgy, which is no surprise as the shop’s owner and director, Schalk du Plessis, comes from a design background.

Not only was I one of the first to experience 4th Avenue’s latest addition, but Schalk was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

1. What inspired you to start ZARIS?
The idea of ZARIS started when we were visiting South Africa (after living in Europe for two years), we were dying for a specific type of Iced Coffee we came to enjoy on a daily basis. But we couldn’t find it anywhere here. So we made a joke about opening an Espresso Bar. Then after a few months of fooling around with the idea (never imagining that it would actually happen) we got funding and decided that we will stay and give this a go.
2. Where does the name come from and what does it mean?

So originally when we were playing around with the idea, we wanted to do a fixed price shop. Basically meaning everything in the shop would be the same price.

ZARIS coffee review fantomdan
Everything on the menu is set at a reasonable R20.

At the time, we decided to register a name, so that if we do decide to go ahead with the idea we’re set with a name. So we started the idea of a fixed price at R15. So how does this translate to the name? Let me explain. I wanted to use the ZAR (South African Rand) and played around with the numbers a bit. We eventually got to ZAR15 and just turned the 15 into an IS. Thus ZARIS was born. Obviously after doing some proper research, we came to realise that R15 would just not be feasible. As you know everything is set at R20. But that is the story of our name.

3. What is the inspiration for the design of the shop?
The design of the store came firstly from the idea that we want to ‘liberate coffee’ as our slogan says. We want to give coffee a new life, making the best African, organic and FairTrade coffee available to everyone. Staying true to that idea, we wanted a fresh and different interior, matching the freshness of our concept. Looking at most other coffee shops, the general feel of ‘coffee’ is the same across the board. Also looking at most of the materials used, we tried to repurpose as much as we could as our motto is to reuse or recycle as much as possible, therefore contributing to the sustainability of the coffee and other industries.

4. What do you hope to bring to Parkhurst with your espresso bar?

fantomdan ZARIS review
ZARIS caters to local residents and those looking for a fresh Parkhurst experience.
It all boils down to amazing coffee, and amazing experience as well as affordable prices. Coffee has become such an important part of our lives, that there is no excuse for bad coffee. Looking at Parkhurst, there are quite a few different markets. Mainly residents and employees of the retail spaces in the area. To the residents, we want to offer great coffee, a friendly place welcoming people walking their dogs or just on a morning stroll through the neighbourhood. Looking at the employees, they can’t always afford a Parkhurst lunch. We want to offer them the chance to enjoy a lovely lunch and coffee every day, not just once a week. Over weekends we see a lot of people coming to Parkhurst to experience the friendly, walking neighbourhood. The people of Johannesburg love going to fresh places and exploring their options. We hope to offer something that most people would find enjoyable.
5. What are the next steps for this venture?
The future. Oh, the bright future. ZARIS is only a baby still, we have so many plans and ideas. Firstly, working behind the bar ourselves is an integral part of the development of ZARIS. We want to connect with the people and give them a personalised service. And then we get to expanding the concept to small kiosk spaces in key areas of Johannesburg. We want to put up a new store every year for the next five years, we might also introduce a ZARIS Premium as well as ZARIS Health. Both of these concepts would be add-ons to what we currently have, but will run more or less the same concept.
So the next time you’re desperately in need of a coffee while in the area, check out ZARIS and tell them Dan says hi. 😉
Still not convinced? Watch the video here:
To find out more about ZARIS, get in touch or visit their social media pages: