Written by Alana Valentine and Ursula Yovich, Barbara and the Camp Dogs is a gritty musical drama about love, home and belonging.
“It’s a rock musical but it’s like What Rhymes with Cars and Girls or Once, more like theatre with songs,” says director Letitia Cáceres. “It’s a real celebration of sisterhood too, between women who can be cruel and frank and outrageous with each other.”
Two Indigenous women, Barbara (Ursula Yovich) and René (Elaine Crombie), have been brought up as sisters by René’s mum. Both have become singers in Sydney. Barbara works the pub scene, picking up gigs where she can and burning bridges shortly thereafter. René sings in a “Singing Sheilas” covers band in a casino. They share a deep but fractious relationship governed largely by Barbara’s volcanic temperament.
René is “as sweet as a smile, as filthy as a public toilet,” according to Barbara.
Barbara is “the arse-burning, eye-watering fart you do in a room full of strangers,” says René, “the face-filling burp you make in a room full of haters.”
René receives word that their mum is in a Darwin hospital. She insists that Barbara – who is enormously reluctant to revisit her past and her country – travel with her.
René prevails. On money earned impersonating an Indian musical act and astride a borrowed motorbike, the sisters hit the highway.
Barbara and the Camp Dogs also plays IPAC, Wollongong, June 5-8.