By Regan Baker
Tucked underneath the main Powerhouse Theatre sits the intimate Turbine Studio that has played host to many up and coming performers in the theatre and comedy circuit. This weekend it was home to Erin Pattison, Annabel Larcombe and Samantha Andrew from Flesh Coloured Panties Productions and their self-written show, Baby Bi Bi Bi.
Underpinned by a strong message about the difficulties and prejudices faced by bisexual women in our society, the performance featured seven self-written songs and multiple skits taken from the artists’ own lives. Although this message was delivered clearly, powerfully and exhibited incredible potential, the performance itself was overstructured and at times, awkward.
Before I get too far into this, I want to be quite clear in saying that there was an immense amount of talent and creativity demonstrated from all three of the artists, and that the elements lacking from Baby Bi Bi Bi purely comes from their level of experience. The raw elements of performance were clearly demonstrated and with a little bit of extra experience and external mentorship they could easily hone their craft into a standout show.
Pattison, Larcombe and Andrew are naturally quite funny artists which makes their over-scripting of the show and lack of trust in their ability to ad-lib and engage the audience with their sense of humour slightly disappointing. Where they could have benefited greatly by relying on audience participation and improvised jokes to stitch the show elements together, they instead scripted forced links which jilted the progression of the performance as a whole. Pattison, who was noticeably quite sick throughout the performance, cracked the amazing one-liner, “This girl may not be busty, but she sure is chesty,” demonstrating the ability they have in improvising beautiful humour. I just wish we saw more of it!
This over-scripting can be boiled down simply to their youth and hesitancy to trust their ability to sway away from a script, which doesn’t really work for a cabaret performance. Or, at the very least, if relying on a full script, deliver the links in a way that does not come across as being forced. There would be incredible benefit for the three artists in watching other standout cabaret performers like Reuben Kaye, who also performed at the MELT Festival.
Baby Bi Bi Bi was listed as being a cabaret, but outside of having a handful of round tables at the front of the audience, there weren’t any elements that defined the show as being cabaret. In fact, the show would have had the exact same impact if the audience sat in stalls like a theatre. There were (I believe) three occasions where the artists came off the stage and acted in the crowd, but without reason. I am a firm believer in film and theatre that every action has to either progress the story forward or have a purpose in the story, and this staging simply did neither.
Pattison, Larcombe and Andrew demonstrated elements of outstanding creativity, which shone through the writing of their coming-out stories. Performed through spoken word they each told their stories individually, but in parts delivered lines at the same time to symbolise the shared experiences that many bisexual people go through. Though each individual coming-out is completely different, the message that their experiences are shared by so many like them was incredibly powerful for the queer-dominated crowd that sat silently throughout the segment. Their stories taught us that being bisexual is not easy, and in order to find a family within the queer community we need to do away with the “You must be this queer to enter” stigma that can further isolate those that are already feeling isolated.
In a similar demonstration of outstanding writing, the performance of their original song about the list of things you can do to try and get people to notice you, despite who you sleep with (though that’s not the terminology they used), was superb. Smart, witty and hilariously true, this song was a true testament to what these three are capable of and how creative some elements of the show were.
There is definitely potential both in this show, and in the three young and creative women that made it. Their writing shows brilliant intellect and very witty humour, however their youth and inexperience let them down and the final execution was awkward and jilted. There is a great message to be learned from Baby Bi Bi Bi, so I would still recommend seeing it and supporting the queer arts, just be sure to go in with an open mind.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.