Lotte thinks she deserves a holiday and some loving at the same time but she couldn’t have known her singles tour of Troy would drag her through history into the ancient falling city. Mixing history, mythology, and the modern day, Trojan Barbie is a confronting exploration of the trauma of war through the female victims.
Using the Greek tragedy The Trojan Women by Euripides as a starting point, Christine Evans’s script characterises the big names of the legends of Troy including Helen (Sophie Avellino), Andromache (Amy Sole), Menelaus (Sam Flack), and Hecuba (Kristelle Zibara) with a selection of her children. The Trojans are being kept captive in a prison camp while their city is occupied by the Achaeans. The survivors have already seen their husbands, fathers, and sons murdered and are now suffering at the cruel treatment of the guards while their remaining loved ones are being collected as war prizes or killed for ritual sacrifices. There is great despair as the final days of Troy draw near.
In another time, far in the future, Lotte (Lisa Robinson) is leaving her doll hospital business for a holiday in Troy on a singles tour. Through some trick of time, she finds herself amongst the chaos of the falling city, herded into the same prison camp as the Trojans and unable to get a clear connection with the Australian Embassy despite her many calls. Lotte’s presence in the camp is ineffectual to say the least, as she spends the majority of her time providing small comforts and propping up Helen’s ill-earned ego. But it’s Lotte’s emotional response to the Trojan women’s evacuation of Troy that carries the weight of this production’s significance.
Director Maddison Huber plays around with classical Greek aesthetics in tableau framing and staging that incorporates varying levels between the chorus (Angelica Murdaca, Taleece Paki, and Shannon Rossiter), the royal family, and the prison camp guards. The pacing of the production is similarly classical with long monologues and a slow, but steady, forward movement. Set design from John Sullivan was simple, including piles of garbage bags surrounding Grecian statues, representing the dereliction of the great ancient city. The lighting and sound design from Aimee Raval and Lucy Mills lent into the inexplicable sci-fi elements of the production with flashing colours and whooshing noises reminiscent of old school Doctor Who or other depictions of time travel.
Robinson presented a stand-out performance as the naive but good-hearted Lotte who merely wandered into a situation much larger than herself. If the production was attempting to make a comment about dispossession, violence, or trauma as witnessed in ancient and modern times, the script could have done with more of Lotte to create a greater engagement between the time periods. Robinson was additionally a breath of fresh air amongst the dense language of the mythological characters, even if she was written as silly comic-relief.
There are plenty of modern day examples of war, trauma, and prison camps internationally and within Australia that Trojan Barbie is attempting to engage with through the women often forgotten by history. But other than Lotte’s innocent and heartfelt pleas for concern and consideration in the closing, the production doesn’t quite reach the level of resonance that the content desires.
Trojan Barbie is running at New Theatre from September 16th – 21st as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival