by Matthew Sterne
on May 15, 2017
6 min read

With eyelashes like feather dusters, cheekbones like daggers and stilettos that would give a window washer vertigo, the lovely “ladies” from Gate69 are sure to turn your head and drop your jaw.

Gate69, sitting pretty in the very centre of Cape Town, is South Africa’s premier cabaret theatre. Naughty and bawdy, the shows here are a laugh-a-minute and are as entertaining as they are shocking. We recently went to see Cathy and the Trolley Dollies, which is a hilarious musical comedy and satirical take on the airline industry as seen through the eyes of three 8 ft aviation goddesses. “This one-of-a-kind drag troupe can sing, move and rattle off one-liners like nobody’s business! Men want them and women want to be them! Buckle up – flying will never be the same again!” And neither will your mother if you bring her to this show.The night starts with a personal greeting at the door by the unmissable and glamorous Cathy Specific before enjoying a delicious designer mezze served on a double-tiered lazy susan. Surrounded by purple velvet curtains in an intimate theatre, beautiful waitresses hand out bread like hot towels on a plane. Then the show, and the fun, begins.

The filthy jokes fly and inhibitions die in this theatre of creams. I loved all three of the characters on stage and their performances. What made it even more enjoyable was that it seemed the performers loved it just as much, often cracking up at their own lines. There’s nothing quite like it in the country. As they said, “All in all, a night out at Gate69 is anything but a drag.”

We had a chat with the show’s creator, Cathy Specific, to find out more;

Can you tell us a bit about Gate69? What was the inspiration?
It started 10 years ago…in my head! I always knew I would have my own venue, that I would use my ‘gifts’ when dressed up to the best of my ability. Although I look fabulous in a floor-length gown and can belt out a musical number, the one-on-one interaction with people is what really makes me smile. Greeting everyone on the red carpet, ensuring they are all having a good time and working the room like nobody’s business is what I thrive on; it makes me tick; it feeds the soul. Personalised service is what we pride ourselves on and there is plenty of that!

I sensed a gap in the market for a Premier Cabaret Theatre; a place where people could feel safe, be themselves and let their hair down. I also wanted a permanent home for Cathy Specific and now she most certainly has one. I have two incredible business partners, Christopher Dudgeon and Luanna Shonfeld, who together gave up their lives as they once knew it to be part of this superb venture. Our doors have been open for seven months now – it’s come with a lot of hard work, dedication, those who believed (and still do) in us and a lot of sacrifices.

The location is amazing, what was it before?
The location is superb, we really could not have wished for a better spot! Admittedly, it did take us two years to find the right building, having seen countless others which just did not ‘speak to us’. You sort of wonder why building number 3 fell through, what was wrong with building 8 and 24, why building 45 was not available and then we walked into our building and we know exactly why the others had not materialised. Although Gate69 is now one building, it use to be two separate businesses each with its own entrance, one on Hout Street and one on Bree street. Downstairs was Hendrik Vermeulen Couture and upstairs was the old Rudd’s Auctioneers.

Huge renovations were needed indeed and we, together with FVE Interiors, have completely transformed the space, creating something that does not exist in this country. Gate69 is a one-of-a-kind venue – plush, ornate, cosy and intimate with a lot of attention to detail. Our little Purple Palace is in the best street in the best tourist destination in the world!

What has the response been like thus far?
The response has been incredible. Everyone who embarks on their journey with us doesn’t want to disembark! We always joke and say that five minutes in our presence one can’t help but be touched mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically or inappropriately – all of the above and not necessarily in that order! It really is a night to remember, there is a lot going on under one roof and guests are treated like gold.

The feedback has only been positive with everyone saying the nicest things and being so complimentary. Tripadvisor is a good indication to those who would like to come and visit us. Reading what others have to say about their experience at Gate69 is reason enough to not hesitate at all and book immediately. It really is an uncomplicated, uncluttered and unpretentious evening out. 

Can you tell us a little about the other shows at Gate 69?
Currently there are two shows running simultaneously, Cathy and the Trolley Dollies every Wednesday and Thursday evening and 69, For Your (Adult) Eyes Only every Friday and Saturday evening. The latter is our Burlesque Peep Show that is an absolute audio-visual feast! Magnificent costumes, flawless choreography and pitch-perfect vocals make this a must-see! This is as sexy as it gets!

We will change the entertainment line-up often so as to keep our audiences not only interested but coming back for more. This is already our third offering having only opened in September last year. Special mention must also be made of our opening musical, Hedwig and the angry inch, which was not only a brave and beautiful choice – it was the right choice. Hedwig won the Broadway World South Africa Award for Best Musical 2016 and this year was a winner at the 52nd annual Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards in the categories Best Male and Best Female Actor in a Musical.

What is your favourite part about each show?
The whole night is a show for us! Irrespective of what is showing, The Trolley Dollies also do the dinner service beforehand, so there is non-stop entertainment throughout the evening. A highlight for me would be the smile on everyone’s face as they leave the theatre – happy and more than satisfied, having already booked to come again or planning their return with another group of friends. This is my favourite part – greeting everyone on the red carpet knowing you saw them the week before or remembering that this is their third, fourth or fifth time back! For the first-timers, well, we know it’s just a matter of time before we see them again.

Where did the inspiration and the content come from for Cathy and the Trolley Dollies?
Well, Cathy Specific was born out of my six years as a flight attendant for South African Airways and then I thought one doesn’t always have to fly solo, why not add two sidekicks to the mix and come up with something new, fresh and unique. Voila! Our show is seriously funny, with us three ‘girls’ bursting into laughter almost as much as the audience! They love this; it makes us real and accessible. The great thing is that us three Amazonian beauties can get away with a lot more than most, and we do! This little musical of ours is for everyone who has ever set foot on an aircraft. And be warned, flying will never be the same again!

For more information or to make a booking, visit their website here.
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