Melbourne Fringe: Glamping with Bobby and the Pins

In the cabaret performance Glamping with Bobby and the Pins, I can’t remember when I’ve been more entertained by such a silly show, one that − at its best − shimmers as a catwalk model in chiffon.

Bobby and the Pins

All-female barbershop group Bobby and the Pins bring a selection of tunes from the 1920s to the 1950s to punctuate their adventures in glamour + camping = glamping.

Kleptomaniacal Bobby Blue (Nicola Hamilton) has a sudden need to get out of town and thinks having company along for a camping trip will provide a good cover story. Towards this, she lures friends − man-hungry Bobby Rae (Phoebe Thompson-Star), wannabe Hollywood starlet Bullet Bobby (Lila Cumming) and slightly unhinged high school English teacher Bobby Dazzler (Jessica Joan Graham) − to the solitude of the bush. Despite Bobby Blue’s planning for the adventure, the group find that the landscape and its wild animals conspire to make their stay less glamourous than they had hoped.

The story is uncomplicated fun that all performers commit to thoroughly, maintaining their character quirks. At 6:30, it could be quite a good family show were it not for the inessential dick jokes that I’ve usually found associated with less talented performers and less decorous eras. The humour is very physical and choreographed by director Merophie Carr to good effect. I have to admit that I was distracted by matters such as Bobby Blue wearing sage green, and how a group called “Bobby and the Pins” seemed to have four Bobbys and no pins. Perhaps some refinement of whether this theatre piece is a continuation of the adventures of the singing troupe or just a tale of them as friends could be beneficial here.

However, surely in a fringe, it’s best to let a show’s virtues trump some pedantic need for logical consistency. Costumes are similar but different; while the Bobbys wear sack dresses of a similar retro style, one Bobby wears a hat of plastic fruit evoking Carmen Miranda, another Bobby’s hat has ingredients for a vegetarian moussaka. Clearly the property department of Hamilton and Neroli Cousins had some fun with these touches, which combined with the bouffants and pin curls give the piece a suitable vintage look.

The Lithuanian Club Ballroom is quite large for a fringe venue, and there was the odd time when the singers’ volume seemed a bit delicate for the size of the space. It might have also been good to have some more variation of tempo in the musical offerings. Regardless, the harmonies are pleasant and musical interludes were fitting, with lyrics of classic songs often tweaked to suit the scene.

I love that Bobby and the Pins respect their era, as shown by the listing of songs on their programme. They also have worked quite hard to preserve it for our amusement. I will be very interested to see what they do when they set up glamp next.

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