Brendan Van Rhyn talks about opening Gate 69 with Cathy Specific

I’m living my truth…

Daniel Dercksen talks to Brendan van Rhyn about Gate 69, an intimate new 80-seater theatre he opens in Cape Town with super sexy diva Cathy Specific, launching with Hedwig and the Angry Inch on September 15 – presented at Gate69 by VRG Theatrical (Niall Griffin and Jaco van Rensburg), with Brendan’s alter ego, the Cathy Specific as the hostess, welcoming guests nightly.

Brendan (2)In the words of Frank N Furter: “My beautiful creature is born!” Tell me about your stunning new creation and what inspired it?

This stunning creation has been in my head for a very long time – nine years to be exact! I always knew where I would end up, having my own venue and sharing my craft in a space that I could call my own. I always say, ‘stick where you are better acquainted’. I know my strong points and I most certainly know my weaknesses – being in this business for as long as I have you are constantly reminded of them – if not by yourself, by others. My inspiration comes from challenging myself, always shifting the goal posts (although never losing sight of the finishing line) and wanting to share Cathy with as many people as I can. She inspires me, she has set a standard that I need to maintain – even if it kills me!

It must be difficult to bring your own creation to life. Tell me about the process?

The difficulty is to keep the dream going; to keep the flame alive, especially for as long as I have.

This ‘little’ idea has been the last thing I think of when going to bed at night (or the early hours of the morning) and the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning. It has consumed me most of the time, has made me journey through every possible emotion and has at times made me think long and hard as to whether this is the right thing to do. That’s all part of the process; the wanting ‘out’, the ‘butterflies’ like you have just met the man of your dreams, the constant questioning, doubting, hoping, praying, crying and complete ‘angst’ at the best of times. And then I walk through my building and know for sure, that all those feelings were worth it; unquestionably so.

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What can fans expect at Gate 69?  Is it a supper theatre?

The unexpected!

Fans can expect a heightened sensory experience, taking you to a world you’ve never been before; a world where we welcome you to get lost in the magic that is cabaret.

This one-of-a-kind venue resembles a mini Moulin Rouge; ornate, plush, classy, mysterious, with a whole lotta soul.

Gate69 is beautifully cosy and intimate with the audience members never feeling excluded from what’s happening on stage. The conscious decision to cater to only 80 people allows for personalised service where guests are not guests, but family.

We are not billing the food as ‘supper’ but rather as delicious designer mezze which is served on a double-tiered Lazy Susan. Guests will most certainly not eat with a knife and fork but enjoy digging their fingers into the feast in front of them. We have kept a few airline themes going throughout the venue, one being that patrons will also be offered warm bread from a basket to accompany their meal – it’s First Class. World Class! Dessert is included as well as a pre take-off drink on arrival – we like to think of it as paying for the experience as a whole and not something as pedestrian as a ‘ticket’.

How does it feel, now that your dream turns into reality?

I’m almost inclined to think it was better left in my head!

Once it goes onto paper there’s no turning back – and I wouldn’t want to even if you paid me. Dreams DO come true, I am living proof of that. They say if your dreams don’t scare you, they not big enough…need I say more!

I still have to pinch myself or take a step back to really grasp that a ‘outjie’ from Pretoria was able to make this all happen. Sure, there have been many people who have watered this plant along the way, but it had to have started somewhere…with a little seed I planted way back when. Uithou en aanhou!

Without dreams there is no work; and without work there is no reason to dream.

Dreams and being a dreamer have always grounded you in your own reality. Have you always been a dreamer?

I always say I’m a day dreamer and a night thinker!

A lot of people also often comment on the fact that I’m ‘living my dream’ being Cathy Specific and then I have to clearly define that if that were the case I would’ve been the paediatrician I always wanted to be – instead I’m living my truth…

On the one hand you have the ultimate offspring of your dreams, Cathy Specific and now Gate 69, and on the other hand you have Brendan, the optimistic realist driving the bus.  How do you maintain the balance?

With great care…

You couldn’t have chosen a better show than Hedwig and the Angry Inch to open Gate 69. How did this happen or what inspired it?

You’re quite right, it’s the perfect show to open this unique venue.

It is brave. It is bold. It is unusual and controversial. It challenges boundaries and has been broadening the minds of theatre goers in Europe and America for years. Thanks to the movie of the same name, it has developed an enormous worldwide following and has earned cult-classic status. Hedwig and the Angry Inch represents an entire theatre culture, a type of production that has only really been seen in the grand theatrical centres of the world. The Off-Broadway culture has produced some of the finest theatre of our time and we think our local audiences are ready for an injection of something new.

I’ve had a little love affair with the musical since 2005 when I was cast as Hedwig in a production in New Zealand. For various reasons it didn’t materialise as anticipated but now, together with VRG Theatrical we are extremely proud to offer this South African first.

Brilliantly innovative, heartbreaking, and wickedly funny, Hedwig and the Angry Inch the iconic rock musical, is to open at Gate69, Cape Town’s newest theatre venue on Bree Street, on 15 September 2016.

A landmark musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask that is “groundbreaking and undoubtedly ahead of its time” (Entertainment Weekly), this genre-bending, fourth-wall-smashing musical sensation, with its pulsing score and electrifying performances, tells the story of one of the most unique characters to ever hit the stage. The music, written by Stephen Trask, is steeped in the androgynous 1970’s glam rock style of David Bowie (who co-produced the Los Angeles production of the show), as well as the work of John Lennon and Iggy Pop. Originally directed by Tony Award® winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) and winner of four 2014 Tony Awards® including Best Musical Revival, Hedwig and the Angry Inch played to record-breaking sell-out crowds on Broadway and promises to do the same in the Mother City.

The South African production will star Paul du Toit (The Rocky Horror Show, Same Time Next Year, Binnelanders, Backstage) and Genna Galloway (Grease, Showboat, Noah of Cape Town) and will be directed by Elizma Badenhorst (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Hot Mikado, Carrie-The Musical). Design is by Niall Griffin and musical direction is by Wessel Odendaal.

After their sell out success of I love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change that ran recently to huge acclaim at the Theatre on the Bay, VRG Theatrical in association with Gate69 will present the unusual and controversial Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The story is about a fictional rock band fronted by an East German transgender singer called Hedwig, formerly known as Hansel, who assumes a female persona after a botched sex change operation that was performed to allow her to marry an American man and escape East Germany. The musical explores Hedwig’s life and complex gender identity.

HedwigYou are also re-uniting with Paul du Toit?  Tell me about your relationship?

I am – he’s a lucky man!

We worked together in the Fugard Theatre’s production of The Rocky Horror Show for a long time – I mean, we had simulated sex night after night! Paul is a superb actor and will do the role huge justice. He is the perfect Hedwig and just like Frank ‘n Furter is very much part of who I am, so the character of Hedwig flows through Paul’s veins.

Vocally too he is ideally suited to play this genderqueer East German singer in the glam rock style of David Bowie. Paul loves a heel and a bit of lipstick…we most certainly have that in common!

Tell me about the alluring and charged title Gate 69?

Hahaha! Thought you’d ask and I’m glad you did. It was carefully thought out. Obviously the ‘Gate’ has an airline connotation to it and the ‘69’ needs no introduction – of course, if it was ‘68’ it means that you owe ME one!

The ‘69’ also means the yin and the yang, the half boy half girl, a bit of this a bit of that. Basically, it means that our little ‘purple palace’ is a place where people can just let their hair down and be themselves – and we most certainly encourage it!

What does the future hold for theatre buffs at your space?

Our vision for Gate69 is to become not only an institution but a destination as well.  Your home away from home; an unpretentious place where dressing up is the norm and where patrons can feel safe and secure. Our entertainment will be varied, so at times you can come play with us at least twice a month and have a different experience. We’d like to think that you havn’t really been to Cape Town until you’ve been through our doors. Attention to detail is what sets us apart. We welcome return trade and all those inquisitive enough to venture into our building – but be warned – ENTER AT OWN RISK!

Cathy SpecificI see your alter ego Cathy is the ”hostess with the mostess”!  I hope you have her firmly under control, or is she the boss-lady?

She calls the shots! Men want her and women want to be her. She is the quintessential Trolley Dolly, the country’s favourite flight attendant and undoubtedly South Africa’s First Lady of Flying.

Being greeted at the door by this 7 foot, platinum blonde bombshell is an experience nobody will ever forget and reason enough to return.

I always say you can’t helped but be touched by her in some way – whether it is mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically or inappropriately – all of the above and not necessarily in that order!!!

I am sure Cathy will also be on stage at Gate 69?

She most certainly will be. For now she’s delighted to be your hostess for the evening, fussing over grannies and flirting with unsuspecting victims, but December will see her take to her stage. I have an incredible drag troupe called, Cathy and the Trolley Dollies,  who will ensure their time under the spotlight over the December season. We had a sensational 6-month run with Madame Zingara a few years back but that was only in Joburg. Cape Town has not seen us three girls strut our stuff and we cannot wait to do so. No miming, tight choreography and styling to die for, we are sure to be a hit for all those left in town, the foreign cabin crew and Gautengers desperate to head to our shores for the silly season.

What’s next for Brendan?

He’s quite happy for Cathy to take over, for now.

He’ll be watching from the wings, smiling, finding it hard to believe he’s created this ‘monster’; this ridiculously regal aviation Goddess who has crept into the heart of many a South African. A far cry from the doctor he so badly wanted to be but living every day with not a single regret, at his best in lipstick and lashes and looking forward to creating a bit of history no matter how big or small.

Tell me about your partners in showbiz at Gate 69?

Wow, where do I start? I have two of the most dedicated individuals by my side, living this project daily just like me; eating, sleeping and drinking Gate69. There is no other way. Life as we knew it will never be the same again. The three of us make a formidable team, Olympic Gold, if the truth be told. A venture like this comes with a lot of sacrifice, good and bad but we are there for each other every step of the way. This is our baby and we look forward to raising her one day at a time.

Any comments you would like to share about Gate 69?

It is a small space, limited seats a night, so don’t delay – BOOK TODAY – on 0715892915 or

Copyright © 2016 Daniel Dercksen