Cabaret Festival

Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2016: Helen Dallimore, Don’t Bother to Knock

Glam Adelaide got together with Helen to talk more about her enigmatic hair shade and how powerfully it has been used to celebrate femininity.


That single word conjures up for me the great icons of our time – Marilyn Monroe, Mae West – Madonna. Women who were unashamedly sassy, sexy and whom have a certain air about them that is both vulnerable and ‘come hither’. Helen Dallimore’s new show premiering at The Adelaide Cabaret Festival celebrates all these traits.

Glam’s Sophie Armstrong of The Moon and The Mirror got together with Helen to talk more about this enigmatic hair shade and how powerfully it has been used to celebrate femininity.

Glam: In the lead up to your new show, what has been the creative process?

Helen: It all started a long time ago for me. I had this idea to do something about women, sexuality and particular icons. I had been wanting to do it for ages and so as I was chatting with my producer and director Richard Carrol he asked me if I had any ideas for Cabaret Festival and I said “I do actually!”. Together we have been writing things for characters and working out how it is going to work musically and theatrically. Next week we will put it on the floor to see how it feels which will be fun!

It’s my first Cabaret Festival and it’s kind of daunting when it’s just you on stage. It’s about 10,000 words you have to remember so it’s slightly terrifying and very exciting!

Glam: It’s a good thing that it’s slightly terrifying…

Helen: I agree. I think if your not being challenged in your work then what’s the point in doing it?

Glam: What is the story behind the name of your show “Don’ Bother to Knock”

Helen: It’s actually the title of an old Marilyn Monroe film. It was one of her early films, a drama with Richard Widmark in which she plays a slightly psycho baby sitter. She’s rather good in it! I just liked the way it felt right away as a title. It has that sexy feeling of come on in, I’m waiting in bed and also a feeling of trailblazing women who didn’t bother to knock on the door, they just went through those doors without tip toeing around! So there are a few different meanings.

Glam: How did you narrow down your song list?

Helen: It was difficult, but because there is a strong theme to the show – it’s not just an impersonation show – it has a focus on a very specific element of these women’s careers and icon status. They use their sexuality as a weapon and a tool if you like, as an empowering thing – as opposed to being a victim or being caught up in the system of patriarchy. The songs we ended up going with are songs about that – they are not love songs. They are more about Fuck You! Here I Am! From that, it was quite easy to choose them.

Glam: What a vision and theme for your audience!

Helen: Yes, it really came out that way. Often, whatever your philosophy or ideology is, it tends to emerge in your work whether you like it not. You can be sexy and strong – you don’t have to be a victim or exist for the benefit of men. But you can certainly use your sexiness!

Glam: Which blonde do you most identify with?

Helen: Mae West! For her time, what she did was so extraordinary. In the 20s, for her to be her own writer, director, producer, star – to say the things that she said in her plays were so provocative, so completely fearless. I find her quite awe inspiring and she just never stopped! She had the attitude of “I’m sexy, I’m awesome, I’m smarter than you and I’ll decide when I’m going to stop.” She didn’t give a fuck about what anybody thought! (laughs) and she was really one of the wittiest women to ever live. Also, the fact that she was super curvy, not a particularly beautiful woman – she was just buxom and almost masculine in a way – but somehow whatever it was she had inside of her, she became the most desired person on the planet!

Glam: What is your creative partnership like with Director Richard Carrol?

Helen: It’s great! We have worked together before. He produced a show I directed called Everybody Loves Lucy which is about Lucille Ball. That was the first time we worked together and then he was my producer and assistant director on High Society which I directed last year. We have a pretty good short hand and I was excited to be co-writing this show with Richard because he is very funny and very smart. I think when you’re writing for yourself its really good to collaborate because you need that perspective, you need someone else to bounce off. Its very easy to lose perspective if its a one person show and you are just in your own head. He’s there to say “Actually no Helen, that’s really not funny!”.

Glam: You have had so many connections to extraordinary blonde women and characters through your career, even Madonna playing a role that you created. What is it about being blonde that is so enigmatic and fabulous?

Helen: It’s interesting isn’t it? For a start it’s just that arresting image, you notice a blonde in a room straight away because of the light that catches in their hair, the eye is drawn! There is something soft and vulnerable about blondes that when teamed with a sharp mind – its kind of deadly!

Glam: You can get away with anything!

Helen: Absolutley! I have tried other hair colours in my career and you do run the risk of being typecast when you are blonde. I was red for a while, brunette for roles and so on but I get more work as a blonde – it suits my personality!

Glam: What has been the highlight experience of your career?

Helen: Playing Glinda in the West End, you can’t really top that! Its a once in a lifetime situation.

Glam: As a legend in the industry, do you have some advice for aspiring performers reading this?

Helen: For me its tenacity. You have got to have really thick skin and super sensitivity in order to be good, open, creative and vulnerable. You have to have the skin of a rhino and not take anything personally and be able to see it as a business. Its an interesting tight rope walk of sensitivity and toughness. If you can walk out of an audition and say I did my best and I’m going to live my life. If the role comes to me, it comes to me but if not, I don’t care – then you’ll last in the business. But if everything is terrifying and competitive, then it is not sustainable. You can’t live like that. You must be philosophical and just say I’m going to keep at it until I get there!

GlamCan you divulge something about yourself people may not know?

Helen: I’m actually really into classic cars from the 60s! I have owned quite a lot of classic cars, sadly I don’t have one anymore. I have a sensible car because I’m a mum and you know – you can’t put a child seat on a bench seat! But I used to have a 1971 Convertible and a 1963 EK Holden Special which I loved! I will occasionally go to a vintage car show and have a fabulous time! Im so smitten with the 60s – an E Type Jag in racing green would be really nice!

GlamBefore you step onto the stage, what is the last thing that you do?

Helen: I breathe. If I’m about to step on stage, I take a really deep slow belly breath to keep the adrenaline going in the right direction. It’s so important for a singing role that your breathing is calm.

Don’t miss out on seeing Helen Dallimore at The Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2016! Find your tickets here!

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