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The Barbaren Barbies: a seamless fusion of cabaret, circus, dance, and physical theatre.

Updated: May 17

by Angela Fegers May 16th, 2024

The Barbaren Barbies made a triumphant and memorable return to the Pfefferberg Theater with their production "A Wild Women Circus," marking their third time (but not third show) on Pfefferberg’s stage showcasing the evening-length work. I'm delighted to see them back with yet another nearly sold-out show. 

This international troupe of five women established their Berlin - based company in 2021. Their work is a formidable combination of circus, dance and physical theatre. The show is collaged with diverse acts to showcase an array of skills including: Vanessa Lee Baisch on Trapeze, Antipoden and Juggling (Germany), Sarah Bleasdale with Dance and Drag King (New Zealand), Sarah Lindermayer on Tight Wire and Chinese Pole (Germany), Sari Mäkelä with Hula Hoop and Cyr Wheel (Finland) and Nicole Ratjen with Physical Comedy and Clown (Canada/Germany). Throughout the two-hour performance the Barbies take the audience on a vibrant rollercoaster ride of sparkling vignettes, all centred around the theme that women can steal the show and our hearts in no time flat. They embody a group of female superheroes, a refreshing departure from the norm in the dance and circus sector, radiating femininity, fierceness and even a Drag King. 

PC: Bernadette Fink

Strong imagery was scattered throughout the entire evening: a life size breast appeared on stage, making a speech for an anonymous award ‘she’ received. I wasn’t quite sure why the breast was receiving an award but the energetic performance that Nicole Ratjen executed despite being completely engulfed in an oversized costume was both fierce and powerful to witness. Her facial expressions screamed clown expert as her breast costume wavered side to side, resembling a giant hula hoop draped in fabric and garnished with sequins that functionally sparkled from the lighting design.

An adult sized baby (Sari Mäkelä) tottered through the stage and the other performers were disgusted by her presence. Mäkelä used wit and quirkiness to execute a memorable moment. The performers were so good that I really felt like these were their real personalities. I believed these characters were real for every second my eyes witnessed the work. 

A playful nod to "Magic Mike" which included one lucky (depending on how you look at it) selected audience member. Performer Sarah Bleasdale stepped into her alias as a Drag King and gave the audience participant a strip tease ending with a surprise banana reveal from her sweatpants. A souvenir for the audience member to take home.  Bleasdale and the Barbies managed to make me feel like I too was selected for a strip tease despite sitting thirteen rows away from the on stage moment. I attended the show by myself  but I didn’t feel like I was watching the performance alone. I felt like we were all experiencing it together, a choreographic skill considering this was a proscenium stage work. 

Her Drag character seemed to be a cross between a male hip hop dancer and a basketball player and her movement exuded a powerful, sexy and hilarious masculinity. This was a surprising contrast with her other sections in the evening work where she showcased boldly feminine jazz dance and intriguing contemporary skills. 

Sarah Lindermayer transformed the mood of the show with a sensuous Chinese Pole act, dressed in a suit like the legendary Anita Berber (intentional or not). If you don’t know who Anita Berber is, you should: google her. I couldn’t help but connect the two during her standout performance. She was just so ‘cool’, smoking a fake cigarette and sliding down the Chinese Pole, a discipline I have never seen before, maybe another reason it was memorable. Or perhaps it was the change in atmosphere, the lights dimmed to a cool blue, narrowing the stage and my focus  to create a more intimate space. Overall, Lindermayer’s playful performance was both smooth and sexy. 

A homage to Frozen, Vanessa Lee Baisch presented the penultimate act of the evening  in a blonde wig and blue gown skipping through the stage mimicking and mocking the famous flick and lip syncing along the way.  Her airy presence was channelling Julie Andrews cue the ‘Hills Are Alive’ circa 1965 Sound of Music with a futuristic adaptation incorporating Let it Go. 

The Barbies could easily adopt the title "Badass Barbaren Barbies." If you missed them last time there is surely more to come. “A Wild Women Circus”  is a seamless fusion of cabaret, circus, dance, and physical theatre. It combines pop culture and both satirical and stereotypical references about women to keep you giggling on your way home, even after the show is over. 

Apricot Press

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