It’s not often you walk into a theatre to see furniture covered in genitalia, but it was all the set that was needed for Baby Bi Bi, a slick, hilarious, and utterly original cabaret dominated by the performances of trio Annabel Larcombe, Erin Pattison and Samantha Andrew.
Unique in delivery and physicality, each of the performers were unwaveringly present, and had the audience fluctuating between tears of joy and recognition as they explored what it means to be queer in contemporary Australian society. Replete with catchy and thought-provoking musical numbers that ranged from touching ballads recounting first (bi)sexual experiences to the acerbic punk-inspired “Eviction Notice” – aimed at those who approach sex and love with the delicacy of a bulldozer – the trio had the audience captivated from the second the show began until long after the house lights rose.
While the stage was small, Larcombe, Pattison, and Andrew filled every inch of it with their gripping personalities – which though quite different were equally moving when played off the strengths of one another, not unlike their contemporaries the Fringe Wives Club. In creating a cabaret which charts the experiences of young queer women with nuance and honesty, the trio offer a relatable addition to Melbourne’s performing arts scene that I hope they continue to interrogate.
To see such sophisticated compositional skills and masterful navigation of humour and hurt by three compelling emerging performers is inspiring, and witnessing the integrity and professionalism each brings to the stage fills me with anticipation for what is to come from these storytellers. The title of their number Do I Want to Be You (Or Do I Want to Fuck You?) alone should be enough to persuade audiences to see and pay attention to these fierce women’s insights into sex, love, family, cronuts, and everything in between.
Despite minimal costumes and subdued but thoughtful lighting choices, I believe paring back in these areas was necessary to honour the dialogue and musical prowess of the performers. When you have a show that features live instruments, yogalates demonstrations, and a large closet covered in decorative reproductive organs, concessions need to be made in certain areas and the balance between the elements was struck nicely. While the blocking fluctuated between moments of physical risk-taking and appropriate stillness, one could see the direction was effective, if not simple in some stages.
Overall, Baby Bi Bi Bi provided this queer woman, and a room full of her counterparts and allies, with an hour of superb and downright hilarious theatre. If only it were longer. From what I’ve seen this is my top pick of the festival, and one the audience reveled in – both during and after this stand-out show.