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Katy Baird: Workshy – Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

Performer: Katy Baird
Reviewer: Hannah Hiett

Piss, ketchup, sex toys, flesh – Katy Baird’s Workshy is both a study in abjection and a very honest autobiography of her own working life. Baird’s style is anecdotal, stories of terrible jobs told with warmth, humour and a matter-of-factness that feels often more like a night in the pub than a ‘performance’ to an audience.

The heart of this piece is its lack of judgement. Baird tells us with only the faintest trace irony ttell-us-block_editedhat selling drugs and working as a sex-cam model can you earn a lot of money – it is a view that is practical, amoral and real, surprisingly so. The stories of working in fast food chains, Wetherspoons and Butlins are stories about friendship, camaraderie, freebies and freedom. Baird creates a frank, unflinching and celebratory portrait of an invisible “service class,” subverting our expectations and showing us a good time in the doing.

There are moments of gob-smacking grossness (let’s not ruin the surprise, but it begins with an impromptu wee in a wine decanter) and high theatricality (a ketchup splattered rendition of Tomorrow from Bugsy Malone) that keep Workshy’s momentum constantly switching track and keeping the audience on its toes.

But the piece’s complexity comes from Baird’s moments of vulnerability – confessing that maybe the attention on-cam played up to her insecurities, and maybe that wasn’t a good reason to do it, maybe it wasn’t real, maybe it was too real for the men on the other side of the camera… Baird is aware that although there were lots of things about her working life that have left her with great memories, she allows us just a glance into the darker, sadder side of things too.

Scattered with audience polls on benefits, drugs and aspirations, Baird draws the audience into her not-so-squeaky-clean world. Anyone who raises their hand becomes complicit in her stories, in a way that is deeply satisfying for no obvious reason.

In the end, you feel like you’d quite like to chase Katie Baird around a Burger King with a bucket-full of ketchup – and that’s a good thing.

Reviewed on 17 November 2016 | Image: Contributed

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