Scrapbook: Bare breasts, keyboards


Scrapbook memories… every now and then I dip into scrapbooks that piled up during my 24 years as Arts Editor of The Mercury newspaper in Durban and, just for fun, dig out reviews and interviews from yesteryear. Today we go back to April and June 1995.


Scrapbook memories today hark back to 1995, the article above conjuring memories of Durban choreographer Denise Britz, and the one pictured at the bottom of this article heralding the Durban arrival of the original touring production of Ian von Memerty and Bryan Schimmel’s A Handful of Keys, which continues to be revived time and again, all these years after its initial success.

Back in the 1980s, choreographer Britz – with then-husband Don Clarke handling soundtracks and composing novelty songs – was widely known for her fun, sexy, sequin-and-feathers floorshows at such Durban clubs as Ruby Tuesday and Millionaires. There were early-evening cocktail sessions and late-night shows, and I was a big fan, reviewing most of the shows for The Mercury newspaper..

The article above appeared in The Mercury on May 23, 1995 – some years after the heyday of those club cabarets. It is my review of Britz’s Airotica dance revue, a supper show which followed the Hanky Panky production Denise devised for the same venue – Durban’s much-missed Playhouse Cellar, still one of the best supper show venues I have known.

Costumes were by Patrick Brill (who happened to be a buddy – we did a year’s then-compulsory military service in the South African Air Force together, from mid-1975), and it is interesting to note that this show featured bare-breasted dancers… quite a thing  for dear ol’ Durbs, back then.

Airotica also marked former Napac/Playhouse Company ballet dancer Peter Taylor’s final stage performance. Peter was for a long time the administrator of the now-defunct Durban Theatre Awards.

Also featured in this show were wonderful vocalist Helene Joseph, sassy lead dancer Di Watson, and attractive and versatile Danica Kleynhans, Tracy Visser, Katherine du Plessis and leggy Desiree Donaldson.

And here’s something interesting… Durban theatre producer-director Steven Stead tells me Katherine du Plessis happens to be the baby sister of Durban’s award-winning Charon Williams-Ros, the star of Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, Annie, The Ladykillers and KickstArt’s Chicago. She is now living in the UK.

What most catches my eye in this review is the Playhouse Cellar admission price – R27.50. And a three-course meal cost R30. Ah, those were the days!

The article below was published in The Mercury on June 20, 1995… and how young were Ian Von Memerty and the equally talented Bryan Schimmel? A great show!


3 thoughts on “Scrapbook: Bare breasts, keyboards

  1. Great retrospective on Denise there Bill. I remember her in the late seventies and early eighties. Ran a dance school in town and then put some great acts together, especially at the Millionairs club. And such a star !


  2. I was the lighting designer/technician for the Airotica show. It was still running the day we won the rugby world cup and that night the dancers had a little South African flag painted on their breasts…lol


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