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Art Smitten – Theatre Review – BARBARA AND THE CAMP DOGS (2019)

Image Courtesy of the Belvoir Theatre

As the arts world comes to a halt amidst the global pandemic, the Art Smitten team take a moment to reflect and review on theatre performances that have taken place in the last year.

Our first feature is a review of the Malthouse Theatre’s performance of BARBARA AND THE CAMP DOGS which took place in February 2019.


Never have I been disappointed by a performance at the Malthouse Theatre, and after seeing Barbara and the Camp Dogs, the bar was lifted even higher.


I walked into the theatre expecting to see a show, but from the get-go, I felt immersed and apart of the story set in a bar that was complemented by arm chairs, stools and a band setting themselves up on stage. The stage design and lighting is definitely on point and works effectively with the theme that the creative team are going for.


The premise of the show centres around two sisters, Barbara (Ursula Yovich) and Renee (Elaine Crombie), who perform in a band together called The Camp Dogs.

Learning the news that their mother in Darwin has fallen ill and been admitted to hospital, they raise money by playing at gigs to pay for their plane tickets.

As soon as this pair enter the stage, the audience partook in a chorus of chuckles, which rapidly evolved into ruptures of roaring laughter. 


The story moves at a steady beat as the audience travels with Barbara and Renee across Australia and is glued together succinctly with the presence of the three-piece all female band providing instrumental music as the two characters share their internal dialogue as well as a an exciting lineup of songs that Alana Valentine delivers with the support of Ursula Yovich and Adm Ventoura that vary on a spectrum of ecstatic to poignant and moving. 


Both characters dig deep in their expression and voices on the reality of outback Australia and Darwin, rooting to their Indigenous background.

This utilises light-hearted comedy as well as meaningful and hard-hitting moments.

If there is a unifying tone that echoes throughout the whole story, it is the concept and importance of family, particularly in the respect how Aboriginals talk about family in a all-encompassing manner, which is a beautiful image.


Yovich slams down an awe-inspiring performance which hits hard with it’s heavy themes to the deep feelings and is supported tremendously by her co-star Crombie and is a particular highlight of the show. I watch and listen with a deep appreciation for Aboriginal culture, aware and sensitive of Australia’s “white history” and am left with nothing but a sheer milage of respect for our ancestors.  


This performance has a lot of heart, and it comes down to the singing and interaction of both of these beautiful women and says how much investment Director Leticia Cáceres has put into these two.


I walk out of the theatre with a glowing warm sensation that fills me from head to toe when the story comes to its resolution delivered with nothing but absolute heart and recommend to everybody to go and see this performance. 

Barbara and the Camp Dogs was performed at the Malthouse Theatre from 7th Feb – 3rd March and went on to play at the Belvoir Theatre (4th – 28th April 2019) and the Queensland Theatre (1st – 26th May).

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