Baby Face

Wed 1st – Sun 26th August 2018

reviews

Eleanor Gunn

at 07:13 on 10th Aug 2018

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Entering the dark demonstration room of the Summerhall was like stepping into an old-fashioned operating theatre. There was the impending sense that, on the smoke covered stage in front of us, was about to be a grisly dissection. The dissection, however, was performed not on the stage, but on the audience.

We were there to see the Summerhall ‘Autopsy Award’ winning performance ‘Baby Face’. To give it a genre is tricky. Even when questioned, Katy Dye – the leading lady of this one-woman show – couldn’t give us a precise answer. It is part disconcerting dance routine, part political provocation, part farce of the world around us. Dye deconstructs adverts, music videos, relationships, to show us their perverse nature, asking us to question inherent ambiguities in modern life.

'Baby face' takes the form of a series of performance pieces, aiming to throw light onto the moral grey area’s surrounding the fetishization of youthful beauty. Dye explores in a word association game-like sequence our obsession with ‘looking 10 years younger’. She repeats of the phrase ‘love the skin you’re in’ until it becomes a dissociated jumble of words. She forces her audience to ask why it is that we all want to look 10 years younger, and for whom. The sequence ends in an ejaculation of baby lotion, not so delicately suggesting who it is that benefits from female infantilisation.

Katy doesn’t let her audience sit idle by. if the loud music and disconcerting transitions weren’t enough to keep our attention, there is the microphone she will, without warning, shove in your face. She wants us to answer hard questions. ‘Would you go out with a 15-year-old?’ she asks one 75-year-old male audience member. Another audience member is asked to carry her, feed her a bottle. Katy consistently makes us question our own role in the infantilisation of young girls.

The constant costume changes demonstrate the thin line between what is sexy and what is paedophilic. She changes from her androgynous opening costume into a sexy school girl costume with Britney spears' ‘… baby one more time!’ playing in the background. Then from here she changes into an actual school uniform, instantly shifting the mood from playful and predatory. This fine line is repeatedly crossed throughout 'Baby Face', leaving your head spinning, wondering which side you stand on.

Do not go to this show if you want an easy relaxing experience. This is a show for people interested in experiencing a fresh perspective on a tough issue which provokes some, admittedly uncomfortable, but important questions. Although at moments too ambiguous, Dye succeeds in her aim of shocking her audience into being concerned by the everyday treatment of young women.

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Siobhan Stack-Maddox

at 09:57 on 10th Aug 2018

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As Katy Dye, the writer and sole performer of 'Baby Face', walks slowly across a smoky stage towards a plastic high chair in the centre I don't know quite what to expect but, having heard very positive things about the production, my expectations are high. 'Baby Face' explores not only the highly topical question of the sexualisation of young girls, but also the equally sinister issue of the infantilising of adult women, seemingly less prevalent in contemporary debate. Through her deeply disturbing but mesmerising performance, Dye shows that the two are interconnected and, by performing in a way that is as ambiguous and complex as the issues addressed, establishes the blurring of boundaries as a central theme.

Ricocheting from gleeful musical theatre to anguished schoolgirl confession to a kind of interpretive dance akin to an exorcism, Dye's performance is one of remarkable energy and honesty. The small venue of Summerhall's Demonstration Room lends itself perfectly to the intensity of the piece. I felt both on edge and entirely captivated by Dye's performance; she has an incredible stage presence, filling the space both when screaming at the top of her lungs and when staring hauntingly in total silence.

Dye makes audience engagement fundamental to her performance's urgency and disconcerting effect. She would force engagement, asking an elderly gentleman if he found her resembling a 15-year old attractive, or cooing at audience members in increasingly manic, shrill tones. But most disconcerting of all was her portrayal of a vulnerable child asking for her hair to be stroked and to be carried, which evolved slowly into the sexualising and fetishising of innocence.

Dye's performance is dynamic and intensely physical, making full use of the space and props, a varied soundtrack, and multiple onstage costume changes between individual episodes. The high chair, which she swings around in the air, sometimes appears to take on an agency of its own. It seems to draw her in and she later caresses it, highlighting both the objectification of the female body and the issues of control and self-destruction at stake as the vulnerable is transformed into the sexual. The importance of language is foregrounded, too, with the upbeat mantra of a fitness class instructor, "You go, girl!", used to draw attention to the irony which undermines the apparent rhetoric of female empowerment in its infantilising address. The disintegration of a skincare product commercial into the nonsensical ("You can...spatula!") while Dye doused herself in baby lotion was particularly memorable, clearly drawing attention to the perversity inherent in the issues at stake.

For all its passion and gravity, there is no sense of preaching or a clear 'take home message' in 'Baby Face'. When speaking to Dye after the show, she said that rather than wanting to convey a particular message, she intends to create an 'experience' for the audience through her performance. 'Baby Face' is an intense and arresting piece which raises questions that you won't be able to put from your mind. This is theatre at its most powerful: urgent, disruptive and an experience that I certainly won't forget.

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