The Sweet Service Award goes to Hermanus Office National, a stationery shop that sells a large range of stationery items in a smallish shop opposite SupaQuick in Hermanus, at the most unbelievably low prices. Printer and fax cartridges are generally expensive when bought at Incredible Connection. A typical M40 cartridge for a Samsung fax machine costs R394 at Hermanus Office National, compared to R 401 at Walton’s and an incredible R 499,95 at Incredible Connection! The goods in the shop are neatly displayed, given its small space, and the owner’s son was very efficient in taking payment.
The Sour Service Award goes to The Fugard theatre, which opened a mere 3 weeks ago. The booking service was friendly and trusting (telephonic booking of tickets without requesting credit card details), the ticket collection process was efficient, and the ticket price was cheap at R 50. The entrance to the theatre is via an adjoining ex-church, beautifully restored and lit, a lovely space in which to meet other theatre-goers, with a large bar, at which one can pre-order and pre-pay one’s drinks for interval, a novel idea. Everything was fine up to this point. An irritation relative to other Cape Town theatres is that seating is on a first-come first-served basis, like at The Labia, rather antiquated, so one had to go up to the third floor to get a seat, far from the stage, and had to sit on long benches as opposed to individual seats. No one was prepared to shift up to make space for others – meaning a shortage of seating due to gaps in between. On the way to the seating, four different members of staff asked patrons to switch off their cellphones. The patron was attacked when she was checking her last Twitter message, the phone having been set on silent – the hostess threatened to remove the phone. The hostess was standing on the staircase on the aisle, next to the patrons, and kept marching up and down the aisle, berating patrons for even daring to touch their phones to check messages. One couple arrived late (the theatre shows strangely start at 19h30) and was let in, and shown their seats with a torch, annoying all patrons on the aisle. A patron wanted to go the cloakroom before interval, and was refused permission to leave by the hostess. The hostess made a huge disturbance while trying to explain why she would not let the patron out. The sneakers worn by the staff make a squeaky noise when they walk along the aisles. At interval the patron went to find the Manager Johan Kupserburger, and only managed to get half the complaint about the disturbances to him, before being rudely cut off by him, as he had just spotted Mangusotho Buthelezi in the audience. At interval two patrons almost came to blows, as the more assertive patrons were served first by the three bar staff trying to serve about 250 patrons, ahead of those that had stood there for longer. After interval two hostesses were put on duty where the theatre-goer was sitting, apparently as a fire regulation (the 70-page Western Cape ‘By-Law for Community Fire Safety’ does not mention such a requirement at all) for the building. The new hostess walked up and down too, talked to her colleague right next to the patrons during the show, and kept moving – standing up and sitting down on the steps. Feedback presented to the Manager at the end of the show was greeted with disbelief, implying that the patron was not telling the truth! He did admit that the staff had only been working at the Theatre for 2 weeks. He then wanted to force the patron to speak to the Director, instead of asking the Director to come to the patron in a quiet corner. The Theatre has the most terrible karma and the staff are fanatical about reacting to cellphones, not understanding that reading or texting a message, or Twittering, does not affect the volume of the phone. Ironically, a bottle and plastic cups fell over during the show, for all to hear. The end result was a horrid evening, with little enjoyment of what was a most unusual production of the Mozart opera ‘The Magic Flute’ a la township-style, with marimbas only in place of a full orchestra.
POSTSCRIPT 28/11: The owner of the Fugard Theatre Eric Abraham, London-based South African, had the Isango Portobello theatre company expelled from the premises last week, reports the Cape Argus. Financial and creative issues between Abraham and Isango Portobello’s Mark Dornford-May may have been the cause. The next performance at The Fugard will be in January, an Athol Fugard play translated into Afrikaans ‘Die Kaptein se Tier’.
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.