Kei-Ella Loewe’s adaptation of Pam-Grant and Stannard’s In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament has its finger on the restless pulse of 21st century feminist anger. A scratched record starts playing in the gloom, and two corset-clad, begartered waitresses emerge to ready themselves for ‘another night on the battlefields of Gastronomic Galactica’. As the characters fight their way through the lunacy of the women’s magazine industry, the perils of submitting to men’s sexual fetishes, the spectre of body dysmorphia, and a daily dose of sexual harassment, the audience is served a well-conceived, smoothly executed rallying cry.
The characters brought to life by Donna Cormack-Thompson and Jamie-Lee Money will be instantly recognisable to Capetonians, who will certainly also grin knowingly at references to Sweat 1 000, Nutribullets, and Assembly. With engaging wit and a surreal musical turn or two, the waitresses poke fun at their own relatively privileged positions on the food chain. Things soon take a turn for the more serious, though, and audience members may find themselves shifting uncomfortably in their seats as the scenarios depicted on stage become ever more recognisable. Indeed, Cormack-Thompson’s genuinely discomfiting impression of a lecherous man harassing a waitress caused a hush to fall over the female section of the room (whilst one or two rather more happily obtuse men continued to guffaw at the unsettling interaction depicted onstage).
Money and Cormack-Thompson tackle their larger-than-life roles with gleeful enthusiasm, and their energy is electrifying. Watching the gloves come off as the waitresses band together to deliver a knockout punch to the patriarchy makes for an extremely satisfying experience. In the end, the prudes and the sluts are all in this together —whether they like it or not. So get rid of those corsets and fishnets and high heels while you discard every unkind epithet that’s ever been hurled your way. It’s time for a change.
In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament is part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival and can be seen at the Alexander Bar on the 29th and 30th of September, and on the 1st of October. Please note that this production features smoking on stage.