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Review - Babushka, living dolls

The Dolls: Judy, Bethan, and Alicia in action.

Photos by Nick Morrisey


By Babushka Cabaret

Directed by Caroline Dunphy

Performance Space

Judith Wright Centre,

420 Brunswick Street

Fortitude Valley


Season: May 20-23. Bookings: 07 3872 9000

The Babushka girls just want to have fun and, as crying, talking, sleeping, walking, living dolls at the Judith Wright centre last night they had heaps – and so did the audience which rewarded them with rapturous applause at the end.

The clever script used dolls as a metaphor for life as a female from youth to age, with memories of favourite dolls, the nice dolls, the ugly dolls, dolls ancient and modern – and of course the life and times of the Barbie doll.

The theatre was decked out cabaret style with tables set in front of the tiered seating under a great lighting desiogn by Andrew Meadows. This allowed the performers to wander among the guests and bring them into the action.

The three performers – the blonde Judy Hainsworth, the brunette Alicia Cush and the redhead Bethan Ellsmore – lambasted the audience with raunchy wit, sly humour, sexy asides, and fabulous vocals as they took us into the pink palace of the dream house.

Judy Doll was a delicious pink-candy confection of a princess doll, complete with ringlets and a tiara as she stood in her still un-opened display box. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, well not at first anyway; she was different when she escaped her genteel prism and showed her true confused character – especially at party time with the male sex doll in full flight! Boy did that doll become truly emancipated.

There was no need for emancipation for Bethan Doll, just a hangover cure for the party doll, who as well as singing with classical purity played a mean violin.

The sexy, pink leather clad Alicia Doll, the power woman with kids and a job had no inhibitions as she wandered through the audience picking on innocent bystanders.

In front of Penelope Challen's clever girlie set that included mirrors and toilet bowls, with some terrific piano playing from Luke Volka they told stories of the inner lives of dolls, of children and dolls – and some home truths about Barbie and Ken.

I am not giving away any secrets about those hilarious and sometimes highly rude tales - you have to see and hear them to fully appreciate them.

The trio created the entire show themselves and worked neatly as a team whether in the comedy routines or the vocals, which were just superb with Bethan Ellsmore and Alicia Cush’s Conservatorium trained operatic voices hitting the high notes and Judy Hainsworth doing hard work underneath counterpointing with the beautiful harmonies.

It was a unique and thrilling vocal combination that was joy to the ears as they sang doll associated songs that were at times funny, at times angry and at others, poignant.

The show still has a few raw edges, dialogue can be sharpened a little and for me the running time, which was advertised at 60 minutes but ran for more than 80, proved to be a couple of songs too long to my mind. The 60 minutes would have been perfect and left me asking for more.

But I’m sure the talented performers will fix any minor flaws before they embark on a full regional tour of Queensland next year, when they will be a big hit.

Babushka enjoying the after-show party. Photo by Deanne Scott

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