Billie Trix makes a return to the stage “how did I get from Madison Square Gardens to this community centre” and she is as blunt and offensive as ever. “Madonna stole my style and now she’s stalking me in the theatre next door, the bitch!”
Her new show, which comes from the Edinburgh Festival, is Musik, and it’s dynamite, confessional, musical, and just a little bit mad.
From the moment she blunders onto the stage, in a black cape with an oversized pink bow in her hair and a glittery eye patch, she races ahead telling us her life story, sprinkling a few songs courtesy of the Pet Shop Boys along the way.
Last year a revival of the musical Closer To Heaven had Adele Anderson playing Billie, but Frances Barber’s revival of the part is acerbic and acidic, namedropping without a hint of a filter in place, and sending up serious cabaret artists through Jonathan Harvey’s funny and topical script.
Born in Berlin and saddled with the name of Hildegarde, young Billie left for New York to make art with Warhol (“he stole my soup”), star in a strange film, and live in a phonebox in Soho for a decade – just like Marianne Faithfull spent years living on a wall at the height of her drug addiction.
She makes the most of strange coincidences like finding out what happened to her first love Otto (“hair like straw and a penis like a Walnut Whip”), or “sleeping with the Prince who sweats”. Family, Campbell’s soup tins, Vietnam, the disco boom are all fodder for the raspy Trix vocals.
Treading a line between ridiculous delusion and accomplished showgirl, Barber’s Billie never once lets the mask slip and revels in her naughtiness (“I don’t do working-class drugs”; “if you’d sucked as many cocks as I have”).
Somewhere in there is the vulnerability of a woman told by her mother “you have no merit or talent”,but she’s buried deeper than the Billie who removed her wig in Closer to Heaven.
A survivor and a savage, Barber’s Billie Trix is a towering creation who holds her audience in the palm of her hand. Musik continues at the Leicester Square Theatre until 1 March. It’s directed by Josh Seymour and designed with an eye for detail by Lee Newby.
Photos: Marc Brenner
LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Musik.