The Bentleys Bettys should be issued with a warning to men: do not mistake this show as just an eyecandy fest of four hot girls, nor as an oestrogen-driven male-alienating manifesto. It is much more. Yes, it follow the trials and tribulations of four young waitresses as they survive an evening with complaining customers, revelling guys, trivial feuds and absurd initiations. But amongst the phoniness is a production armed with actuality and some ballast.
Grace Newton has conceptualized a story which offers insight into the girl’s guide to getting ahead in contemporary Cape Town, without an overly dramatic tone. Her dialogue is exceptionally witty, with some of the funniest lines I have ever heard. And for the run at the Fringe Festival at least, director Cherie-Lee Blackie accentuated the story with bright lighting, a semi-bare set and very few props. Not much was needed after all; these four actresses quickly establish the mood and backdrop of the show with their remarkable sense of reality and conviction.
The jewel in The Bentleys Bettys crown is the immaculate casting. Hilda Cronje has been enjoying local and international praise for her part in the acclaimed Mies Julie. And in The Bentleys Bettys she is again in top form, honing a memorable come-hither performance which keeps the production from self-destructing. Cronje perfects an epicurean who prefers everything in excess (including men) while dismissing the painful side of life and love. The chatty Roxanne Blaise is utterly convincing as the repressed, yet tough-as-nails leader of the pack running the restaurant and its bickering waitresses. Keren Lindley, a last minute replacement, balances flashes of vulnerability with a degree of concise coldness. But the unlikely comedienne is Tarryn Wyngaard’s fretting yet refined ingénue. As the ‘new girl’, her mishaps and naivety provide the majority of the comic relief, and Wyngaard suffuses her character with perkiness, insecurity and girlish charm.
The Bentleys Bettys is in its own way an effective show as it never stops entertaining, revealing constant intrigues, despite the thinly woven plot. The friction between the girls is extremely sexy at times and as riveting as it were true. It is a fun, light-hearted production, which celebrates the shallowness in each one of us while recognizing the basic faults which make us human.
While this show may appeal to a more female audience, a lot of men will appreciate not only the message, but the cynical, tongue-in-cheek, adult humour. And after experiencing such an entertaining romp, us men might just view the plaid-clad girls of Hudson’s Burger Joint with completely new eyes.
Benn van der Westhuizen
The Bentleys Bettys, a part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival, ran at the Galloway Theatre from 25 September to 5 October 2014.