6 Guys Named Moe — Richard Heller Mistakes Carnival for British Theater

6 Guys Named Moe giving a show during Carnival in São João dos Angolares. Photo by Richard Heller

This is a carnival troupe performing on Mardi Gras in the town of São João dos Angolares. I had caught their act the night before, in the pink cultural centre of São Tomé.

A power cut caused a delay, and I had tried to chat to them in French while we waited for the lights to be restored.

What with working in a second or third language and frequent interruptions by fans and stage managers I never succeeded in establishing their name.

It sounded like Mogambo, but that’s the name of an overblown Fifties movie with Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, so I decided to call them Six Guys Named Moe. More accurately, it should have been Three Guys and Three Screaming Drag Queens Named Moe.

Their act was the same in both places, with no apparent change between the sophisticates of the capital and the out-of-towners. In the cultural centre they had a stage to work from but in São João dos Angolares they stood and delivered in a small open space between shacks.

The São João crowd was packed, but they all courteously made space for the foreigner with the camera, and urged me to take pictures. In truth, the act was not terribly photogenic.

In both places it consisted of a long dialogue, I think in Creole, between a man and a woman, played with maximum falsetto drama by one of the Screaming Drag Moes. There were short spells of dialogue and then a somewhat monotonous guitar riff, with percussion.

Sao João dos Angolares

São João dos Angolares. Photo by Hans Kleijn

In both places it drew a lot of laughs, and I could tell that some of the passages were distinctly risqué. I imagine too that the script was an old favourite. In neither place was there any charge to view the performance or any collection.

Were the Six Guys on some sort of grant, keeping alive a venerated entertainment as an alternative to the endless TV soap operas and football matches?

I took in about half an hour of the act but there was no sign of any change in the basic plot, still less an ending. I slipped away and walked back to the Roça São João. From about a mile away I could still hear the screaming drag queen.

Richard Heller is an Oxford graduated British author, journalist, speechwriter, ghostwriter, editor. His novel A Tale Of Ten Wickets is available on Amazon.