FringeReview Scotland 2019
Katy Dye delivers a one woman show with help from a couple of audience members where she manages to go from playing an innocent with proposed benefits to a woman who in terms of her performance benefit from controlling the stage on which she manages her audience. It goes from dancing with a baby chair, to flirting with a member of the audience before changing into a school girl outfit. We are then metaphorically hit around the head more than just one time with the message. It ends with baby lotion and talc in yet another disturbing set of sequences that asks many questions of us – all of which are designed to make us squirm and think whilst doing so.
There is nothing comfortable about Baby Face; and nor should there be. It is all about the sensualisation of adults into the children that people may find attractive and erotic.
Katy Dye begins by screeching her way over a discordant soundtrack before picking up the baby chair and dancing with in a way that would send your health and safety official into apoplectic meltdown.
It progresses through set pieces which address a very uncomfortable set of circumstances in theory, the most disturbing of which involved bringing the audience member up onstage so she can toy with him and become more of a child for him to explore if it does make them feel attracted to her; he does not. It is an inspired and haunting idea. The member of the audience onstage struggled as did we and there maybe ought to be therapy offered.
It did leave me thinking about how right it was or not to have anyone up onstage to be made to feel so awkward. Then I considered how many women have been in similar positions – we have YouTube evidence of an assault by Jimmy Saville for God’s sake – so it left me marginally more comfortable with the idea. Until I wondered if equal opportunities would permit no-one to be put in that position.
The other set pieces, aside from the audience participation, were similarly effective and inspired. The Britney Spears segment was a little obvious but the move into baby lotion – I could hear an ASM screaming, watch the curtains from somewhere – and the ending with the talcum powder very visually effective.
Aside from the issues any asthma sufferers might have, this was a performance with minimal set, plenty of creative ideas and at its core; discomfort. I was asking myself questions from the beginning to well after the end making it something that I found incredibly effective and affecting.
The script – what there was – was at its brightest when the advertising of the lotion. The mixing up and the nonsense spouted had a very structured feel that highlighted by both word and intonation the absurdity of the medium.
Lighting was highly effective and the one area from which I thought we could have got more was the props being sought at the side and then a costume coming from a hole in the floor. More of the holes in the floor would have been far better than throwing things on or having to disappear to get them. It might have helped to cement the idea of finding and exploring emotions we may not want to admit to, in similarly unexpected places.
The soundscape was discordant and fit the piece well and whilst stage craft was evident, I did find the microphone lead a distraction. It became less annoying as the performance progressed (ironically I wondered if a Madonna mic would have been better and then gave myself a row for thinking it).
Overall I wondered if to like this was to feel slightly icky. I couldn’t claim it as a guilty pleasure as it asks and then demands thought. It provokes and then gives questions. It challenges and makes you challenging. It’s theatre and just as we know it should be.