Babushka: I Can Keep A Secret…


I Can Keep A Secret…


5 – 6 July 2013

The Box, West End


Reviewed by Guy Frawley


“We don’t have a liquor license so can’t sell any alcohol, but with every item of merchandise sold, a complimentary wine or beer is included.”


This is the line my evening began on, last Friday night at the The Box in West End. This is also why I now have two screen printed, Babushka tea towels. This quirky exchange set the tone for the evening, which was quickly fostered by the general setting. Inside the gutted interior of an old workers cottage, The Box is a delightful space that’s been set up as an artist run initiative to provide a dynamic space for a range of performances, events, workshops and other assorted projects. It provided an incredibly intimate performance space that made you feel as if the act was playing out in your living room.


And what a performance it was! The girls of Babushka (Alicia Cush, Bethan Ellsmore, Laura Coutts, Michelle Bull) have created an incredibly funny, sexy, spellbinding performance that draws you in and keeps you hooked until the end. Gallivanting through a far-wandering songbook, you were never quite sure what could possibly come next. Opening with a powerful rendition of Kylie’s Confide in me they took full advantage of the song’s natural operatic feel and coaxed it into the diva territory that they’re all so obviously comfortable in. It was entertaining in itself, simply trying to work out what those familiar snatches of music were going to become, or realising all of a sudden what it was exactly you were listening to. Like the moment in the evening that the girls performed Lotion, as in the lotion that one puts in the basket so as to not get the hose. Yes, Buffalo Bill goes to the opera at a night with Babushka. I must say, I also felt they proved quite marvellously my personal theory that Gotye’s music would lend itself well to musical theatre. David Law accompanied on piano and kept up a playful rapport with the girls.


I really liked the fact that the structure of the show allowed each of the four their own time to shine, and in some cases quite literally, grab the spotlight. Within each of their individual characterisations you could see how much fun they were having performing and it really translated itself into a great atmosphere. Cush’s representation of her pregnancy leant itself well to humour and it was rather refreshing to see the idea and mythos behind ‘the pregnant woman’ being played out in a relatively unique way. From a completely selfish point of view, it’s rather unfortunate that the impending arrival of her baby is likely to put the brakes on Cush’s performance schedule and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with when we see her climb back into the theatrical saddle so to speak. Unfortunately, it would appear however that Coutt’s absence will extend a great deal further than Cush’s as this has been her final performance with the group before moving to the U.K. for post-grad study at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. I do hope they manage to find a replacement with as much zest and character as Coutt’s displays on stage. Bull’s naturally expressive abilities work well with this style of performance and whilst she initially appeared to play more of a supporting role, when she took the stage it was clear that she could control it with the same intensity and strength as the other three.


Babushka I Can Keep A SecretFor me though, Bethan Ellsmore offered the standout performance of the evening. Her individual performances crackled with intensity and I was often transfixed. In her 1940s-silver-screen-siren gown and flaming fuchsia hair she ticked all the femme fatale boxes and has the knack of flicking the switch on her sex appeal down to an art form.


It was a delight to be able to sit back for just over and hour and to be blown away by such well-polished, talented performers who also presented great, entertaining work. Between pending births and international education it would appear that the future of Babushka would perhaps have a question mark hanging over its head. But I do so hope that there’s a speedy solution as I’d love to see them perform again, and you’d be doing yourself a favour by keeping your ear out for their name. If you find yourself with an opportunity to see Babushka perform you’d be a fool to miss out, you’re guaranteed a great night.



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