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In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament

In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament

Review of In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament by Joy Watson

In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament

‘In Whorefish Bloomers: The Waitresses’ Lament’, currently on at the Alexander Bar and Café, is adapted from a play written by Sue Pam-Grant and Sheena Stannard that first made its debut in the 1980s. Its political commentary on the skewed, inequitable gender relations between men and women that result in women warding off sexual harassment and violence on a regular basis is still very much relevant.

‘In Whorefish Bloomers’ starts out with two waiters preparing for their first night at a new job. In a play on how women can also subscribe to patriarchal notions of summing up the worth of another woman in terms of her aesthetic appeal, the waiters size each other up and comment disdainfully on the look and appeal of the other. For the rest of the show, this gaze of one woman on another shifts to become a focus on the lens through which men see women.

The pace of ‘In Whorefish Bloomers’ is fast and electric. Its tone is sharp and incisive. Just as the audience wraps its head around the acerbic dialogue in one skit where we reel in the shock and horror of how everyday sexism plays itself out, the play sears on to a change of scenario, equally cutting and to the point. At times, in the interplay between these skits, the actors flap around in dramatic gestures, mimicking ‘cute’, stereotyped portrayals of women who try to fit the mould. All of which is over the top and deliberately orchestrated so that we see it for the bizarreness that it is.

Satire, sardonic commentary and humour are used as devices for dealing with very serious issues. Sexual harassment, rape, violence, body image, eating disorders and the complicity of social institutions in perpetuating patriarchal ways of thinking that are deeply damaging to women, are dealt with in an acute, discerning manner. The impact of viewing women through the lens of entrenched societal labels such as ‘whore’, ‘virgin’ and ‘bitch’ are exposed for the limiting, dangerous notions that they are.

The audience is taken on a journey of considering the pressures to conform in being thin and beautiful, even when this entails starvation. We take a peek into the dynamics of normalised relationships where women are made to put themselves in positions of sexual subservience to keep their partners happy, even when this means that ‘my guts were spluttered on the duvet.’ And in a chilling, mesmerising scene, we witness how power can be so all-consuming, that it results in sexual violence.

‘In Whorefish Bloomers’ uses humour and laughter as a device for dealing with very serious, heavy material. This is cleverly done. As a participant, I found myself relating to the humour and ridiculousness of how sexism plays itself out, but at times, had to stop short in my laughter to consider the underlying political message. There are moments in the script that required deadly silence. In this way, ‘In Whorefish Bloomers’ is a mind-field in traversing through light, funny moments to moments of absolute horror where laughter becomes inappropriate. And it was a great pity that not all members of the audience seemed to get this. But then again, I am not surprised given that one man, after the show, glibly said “Well that was a lot of man shaming.” Completely missing the point and illustrative of how even a clever show such as this can just go over some peoples’ heads.

‘In Whorefish Bloomers’ had one shortfall that I thought would have made it so much more meaningful if addressed. While it’s a powerful commentary on the everyday sexism that women face, it is virtually completely silent on the intersectionality of feminism. The way in which gender intersects with race, class and sexual orientation is not touched upon at all. I felt that this was a significant hole in an otherwise beautiful tapestry.

The performances by Jamie-Lee Money and Donna Cormack-Thomson are sterling; both are exceptionally talented and astute in their portrayal of their characters. A definite must see.


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