Forget the Barbie dolls: this toy story packs a real punch
By Christine Moffat
The publicity material for this show tantalises with the following: “…Before Barbie, there was Bild-Lilli… Hard drinking and smoking hot, this 50s icon riots her passage from Hamburg to Mattel.” This is not just publicity material; it is the essential back-story for a good understanding of what you are about to watch. I am not personally enamoured with shows that require homework before viewing, but the ethereal way with which the narrative of Bild-Lilli is treated means that is what this show requires.
That being said, Elena Knox delivers a hard-working, thoroughly-researched performance that deserves the effort it demands of an audience. If you go along with the (at times) surreal events on stage, you will be rewarded with a thought-provoking and intelligent show. As writer and performer, Knox clearly aims to inform and challenge as much as she entertains. Such an approach can divide an audience, and I feel it did on the night I attended. This sixty-minute art-cabaret-theatre-poetry “mash-up” packs in Bild-Lilli’s sixty-year history, along with so many themes and ideas that at times it was hard-going for the audience.
Upon reflection I believe that many of those attending did not have a solid idea of the show they had booked for, as I think this production achieved exactly what it promised. The show is presented as part of the Helium season of new independent works at the Malthouse Theatre to showcase cutting-edge new works by independent Australian artists. For my money, Bild-Lilli delivers admirably as a challenging piece of avant-garde theatre that puts both its audience and performer through their paces.
The show is a realisation of Knox’s artistic vision, with just a hint of shoestring budget. We are treated to endearingly clunky props and new musical compositions, along with confronting onstage costume changes. The overall effect is an intense atmosphere in the room that could afford to offer the audience a couple more points of calculated relief. Bild-Lilli’s poodle Scheisse does his best to assist in this way to great effect.
For me, this is a Frankensteinian recipe of old-school indie-theatre techniques, performance art and cerebral music combined to create a life-sized, freakishly attractive plastic-doll-of-a-show. It contained just what it said on the box, ready or not! Overall, I think it is worth your time to acquaint yourself a little with the Bild-Lilli story beforehand, so that the two of you can become even better acquainted during the show.
Tue 24–Sat 28 Jul, Tues 31 Jul–Sat 4 Aug
All tickets $25
For details see www.malthousetheatre.com.au/helium