Patisserie not always sweet

by Tanweer Mohamed
Production: Patisserie Femme
Photos: Golda Simmers

“I support the LGQ.”

“Don’t blame the victim, blame the perp!”

These lines signify the questions Patisserie Femme raises around the treatment of women and the move towards a more inclusive and equal society in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation and size. 

Patisserie Femme is a bakery set in Cape Town that ostensibly jumps on the bandwagon of inclusion by advertising the vanilla, caramel and chocolate confectionaries it has to offer. 

Only thing is, the delights offered are woman, not confectionaries.

The show communicates acerbic remarks about how inclusion and equality can be superficial if trendy enough to yield economic benefit.

Like during the shoot of an advert, the manager, Papa (Nomfundo Selepe) pauses the shoot to ask for eye drops to fake some tears to exaggerate empathy with some or other ill-treated group of society.

The women in the bakery, including an intern of six years (Liphelo Matthews), are sexualised to embellish the bakery’s confectionaries.

And if inclusion and equality is desired, why does Papa squeal at the sound of the intern’s growing exclamation of “vaginas, Vaginas, VAGINAS”?

Nevertheless, the HR person at the bakery calls unfair treatment on women getting extralong smoke breaks. 

However, if one digs a little deeper, the root of this unfair treatment is the sexual passes Papa makes on his staff members for whom the consequences of protest are dire. 

Selepe and Matthews must be commended for the way they convey this message of the lived reality that many women still encounter. Their physical performances were of such a high standard that the barren stage design could easily be overlooked. In fact, Selepe and Matthews’ acute body movements, sound and accent changes, brought the stage to life. 

It was all done in such synchronicity that the physical performance was underpinned by an undeniable chemistry between Selepe and Matthews that offered the show momentum. This momentum builds to an inevitable crescendo that plays out in a scene of both courage and innocence. 

As someone who is hesitant to engage in identity politics and who struggles with metaphors, I could not help but still enjoy what I was watching.

The show continues the conversation about the treatment of women and broader societal inclusion and equality of all kinds of people in a digestible manner that is both blunt and funny. From the humour of “men make the dough too fast” to the serious contemplation of “popping the cherry,” do not mistake the show for merely pitying the reality of being a woman.

Yes, it communicates some of the harsh realities, but it concludes with a necessary show of conviction and power.

The next question that comes to mind is whether we want to live in a society where such an act of conviction is still necessary.

Or can we change and do better?

I guess you and I will have to find out for ourselves…