Life in Plastic

Life in Plastic Cabaret Festival 2024Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The Banquet Room. 8 June 2024


Barbie doll.

Plastic. Pink. Really smooth. Manufactured perfection.

Sits on a high silver table offering sarcastic retorts, blended with bone crunching legal smarts, even if she is meant to be a loving confidant to a Christie Whelan-Browne circa school year 6 – 9. Barbie’s presence hangs large even when your eyes are on Whelan-Browne in full flight.


Life in Plastic surveys Whelan-Browne - young girl, teenager, young woman - attempting (and yet battling a deep need) to be a perfect Barbie despite life, and her body, not being smooth, manufactured pink plastic perfection. Still attempting it, even when unselfconscious innocence is smashed.


When you are made to cover up in a Dinosaur costume in the school play instead of being a dancing Pebble, you realise consciously, you are not beautiful.

Bubble gum colours of 80s//90s popdom, with Dolly Magazine and Impulse spray in the air were wonderful times. Whelan-Browe delivers Cyndi Lauper’s songs alongside every other girl hit of the era’s magic, happy days when she was a “Westfield Barbie on minimum wage” despite the secret malice buried within myriad gleefully relayed comic, and not so comic, life experiences.


Sheridan Harbridge wrote and directed this sensational sass laden Whelan-Brown life saga. Key element? Balancing a bright, innocent outer world with a very sophisticated, deft and delicate revealing of things darker, raw, intimate and vulnerable. Yet managing still to be screamingly funny when the show unloads difficult, hard-core stuff. There is a point where all things Barbie do not cut it. Can Barbie have a baby? What if you can’t either? IVF and $10,000 a pop anyone?


Harbridge’s direction and writing allow Whelan-Browne the freedom to create her story in performance as an act of art freed from the life-material’s inescapable attachment to her. She is enabled to create, one step away from herself. That freedom is the infectious spirit powering this show. Whelan-Browne lets it rip. She shows off her superb stylistic vocal range with kick arse elegance, laced with whip sharp comic timing that never fails to land the laughs.


Kellie-Anne Kimber’s score and sound design capture that 80s/90s period perfectly. You won’t hear bubble gum pop overlayed with Cyndi Lauper’s lyrics any better than this.


David O’Brien


When: 8 June

Where: The Banquet Room

Bookings: Closed