The German live-art collective bambule.babys have brought a double bill of Barbie-driven porn to this year's Fringe. In Part One, Anna Valeska Pohl inhabits a box-like set of baby pink and powder blue, surrounded by naked dolls and their dismembered parts. Other "customer dolls" sit on red padded chairs around the stage, and it's a nice touch that we have to decide what to do with them before we can even take our seats.
The show comes in waves of knowing black comedy and aimless improvisation. There is a scripted structure, which eventually provides some elements of backstory, and some connections to the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, but the detail is sloppy.
At first we are voyeurs to a style of performance most often witnessed on user-generated video sexchat channels. Later, more direct contact is suggestive of a brothel madame, interchanging with discomfitting portrayals of a sex-worker whose services we have, apparently, paid for. There is a fine line that separates representation from actual sexual provocation, and Pohl flits uncomfortably back and forth over that line throughout. The show relies on audience interaction and, though Pohl warmed up as we did, tonight it felt too little too late.
Hades is played by a doggedly masturbating male doll, with a strangely disfigured face and neck, and the show—which seems to begin as a comment on sex work—darkens as the "workers" become identified as children. A constant slew of sucking, mashing of chewing gum, squeaking of teeth and an odd drawling accent make the experience equally challenging to the ear.