A raunchy strip show extravaganza at Cape Town’s prestigious Baxter Theatre? Yes, we certainly have come a long way! There were screams, applause and even whistles as the beefy strippers tore off their kit on opening night of New Zealander, Anton Desi’s, Ladies’ Night, now showing to appreciative audiences in the Concert Hall.

We all loved the hit movie The Full Monty, where a group of ordinary down-and-out guys in search of a couple of bucks decide to explore their creative talents by stripping down to please all the lusty girls in town. We also know that Cape Town has many lusty lads that appreciate male flesh, so going by how much the gay glitterati enjoyed the show on opening night, Ladies’ Night is bound to be a success.

The producer, and one of the stars of the show, is sexy Anton Desi, who lived in New Zealand for many years. Written by Stephen Sinclair and Anthony McCarten, it has been successfully imported from that country: the script adapted for a South African audience. And the result is hysterical. The humour, characters and dialogue are all typically South African and very accessible. Sophisticated gay audiences may find the comedy mundane, but it is important to accept the show in its working class context.

Most of the audience members I spoke to said that they found the first half a little drawn out, but agreed that the second act was superb. The second act is also where the extravaganza strip show takes place, and all is revealed. (No doubt that the audience would enjoy that more!) The show and performers start from a low, slow base at the opening where their dreary existence has little excitement and drama, but magic comes into their lives when they star in a show which aims to please and leaves little to the imagination.

The gay themes and issues in the production are quite strong. One of the lead characters is Jules (played by the hunky, beautiful and multi-talented Brendan van Rhyn). Jules comes out the closet like a jack in the box, and his hilarious camp antics won round after round of applause. Watch out for him in the second act. He will surprise you.

On one level, the play is showy and superficial, and yet it deals with many deeper issues: Personal morals, social pressure, economic survival and sexual orientation are all laid bare, and that in itself makes for interesting examination. Chatting to all the performers afterwards, I realised why they sparkle on stage. They just love what they are doing and they work well as a team. Go and support them. You may end up seeing more than you bargained for….

Ladies Night runs at the Baxter Theatre, Cape Town until the 18th of February. Book online through Computicket.

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