Jamie-Lee Money and Donna Cormack-Thomson in In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament. Photo supplied.
Riding on the Greyhound down to Cape Town a few days ago had me remembering when I bussed down +- fifteen years ago to the Mother City, the City of Dreams, to… become a waitress. Fun times. When I wasn’t working.
The place of my employ was a Camps Bay champagne and oyster bar. The clientele thought themselves rather fancy shmancy daahhling, but most of the time they were sleazy snobs who thought their money bought them class (it didn’t) and that the outrageous bill included the pleasure of treating us waiting staff like shit.
Oh and the uniforms? Of course, the guys wore T-shirts whilst us gals were made eye candy of with crop tops. The men in charge must’ve known what the customers wanted – why else were our just-out-of-school bellies on display?
In Whorefish Bloomers hits the nail on the head from the start. Opening with pairs of shoes on trays, we’re given the message: these women – these treats – can be served up to you.
In suspenders and lacy fishnet stockings, two funny actresses tell tales of the trials of waitressing. The stylistically heightened characters – Lori and Beth – border on being caricatures. And so we laugh at them and their lives. For anyone who’s worn the apron, we laugh in recognition of the bizarre stories (which are truth!).
But when the work turns dark and we start to get access into these women’s worlds… the caricatures transform and we see the people behind the mask. It’s an effective technique to bring attention to how people choose when to dehumanise others – generally people lower on the capitalist economic ladder. (But see note above about money and class.)
What In Whorefish Bloomers does so well with stinging satire is highlight the dehumanisation women suffer daily. These waitresses represent all women. We are items on the menu to choose from… flesh for consumption. A quick reminder that South Africa is the world’s rape capital. Beth describes losing her virginity: “He was into it. I wasn’t… I didn’t participate”. One in Three.
Yet we are “products of the patriarchy” Lori and Beth tell us. Trapped in patriarchy’s playroom by media and marketing ploys, we’re manipulated into believing ‘sexy’ is important, you’ve got to be “real women with real bodies”, we need to compete.
Lori and Beth sit and unravel rolls of toilet paper, as if turning the pages of the Cosmopolitan, reading out ridiculous sounding article titles. Except, they’re real. The picture of them sitting on the toilet lets us know the magazine messages are all a load of crap.
In Whorefish Bloomers is a snappy, smart script, originally written in the 80s by Sue-Pam Grant and Sheena Stannard. Kei-Ella Loewe has adapted it to contemporise it (when Lori pronounces the x in womxn – hilarious). But the notable point is that three odd decades later, the script is as relevant as then… why has nothing changed?
With an excellent set of performers and tight, crafted direction, In Whorefish Bloomers is sassy, it’s snazzy, it’s slick, and a damned good show.
- In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament is next on tonight, 26 September at 19.00. Click here for bookings and info.