Battersea Bardot

“....a unique and thought-provoking performance.

Battersea Bardot at the New Wimbledon Theatre (Studio) was a unique and thought-provoking performance that left me with mixed feelings. The intimate setting in the studio added a touch of authenticity to the experience. As the curtains drew open, Anne Rabbitt, portraying Carol White, delivered a prologue, setting the stage for what was to come.

The minimal stage design, featuring only a velveteen chair and a drinks trolley, allowed the narrative to take centre stage. What struck me immediately was the use of flashbacks to explore different facets of Carol's life. While this approach was intriguing, it did make the storyline somewhat challenging to follow at times. For example, we only learn about Carol's children after a shocking incident involving one of them, which left me wanting more context.

One aspect of the play that I found challenging was its unflinching exploration of sensitive topics, including rape, paedophilia, child neglect, group sex, and emotionally abusive relationships. These themes were only touched upon, but they added to the complexity of the narrative.

The music, performed by Musical Director Gabrielle Ball and cellist Annie Hodgson, contributed to the play's distinct atmosphere. However, I couldn't help but feel that the music could have better reflected the era in which the story was set. It seemed somewhat disconnected from the time period and lacked the emotional depth I expected. The use of a recitative style in the songs, while perhaps intentional, added to the overall disjointed feel of the production, mirroring the fragmented nature of Carol's memories.

One recurring phrase, "pocket Venus," was central to the narrative, though it might be unfamiliar to younger audiences. While I correctly interpreted it as a term for a small, beautiful woman, I can see how it might be missed by others.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the play's structure was both intriguing and challenging to follow. The story shifted between different time periods, with the prologue taking place ‘in a coma’, followed by scenes from ‘New Year's Eve’ and various flashbacks from Carol's life. It all culminated in another layer of the narrative set ‘after her death’. This complex structure added depth to the story but also contributed to the overall feeling of disorientation.

Battersea Bardot is undoubtedly a brave production, with Anne Rabbitt delivering a powerful solo performance on stage. The inclusion of the musicians on stage added a dimension to the experience. However, I couldn't help but feel that the narrative might have been more engaging had it focused on a specific aspect of Carol's life rather than jumping between multiple timelines. It's a performance that leaves a lasting impression and encourages reflection on its challenging themes.

This show was reviewed on the 18th September 2023.  Battersea Bardot runs at the Studio at the New Wimbledon Theatre until the 23rd September 2023.  Tickets available here: Battersea Bardot: A New Musical Tickets | Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre in Greater London | ATG Tickets

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides


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