Reviewer: Jo Beggs
How is it that, in the enlightened 21stcentury, the infantilism of women still seems reasonably acceptable for our screens, billboards and catwalks? Is the idea of the little girl lost so embedded in our patriarchal society that we’ve forgotten to question it? Katy Dye hasn’t, and it’s the starting point forBaby Face, a short, punchy piece of physical performance in which she isn’t afraid to raise some difficult questions.
Dye spends an hour behaving like a child – a drooling baby, a petulant toddler, and an argumentative teen. She squeezes into skin-tight lycra tops, a school uniform with a too-short skirt, and prances about showing her knickers. She shouts and gurgles, she rolls on the floor. It’s entertaining and disquieting in equal measure.
Then she pushes it further, exploring the taboo. A (rather heroic) guy on the front row gets questioned about how far he would go with a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, a 15-year-old. These are questions we’d all rather not think about, focused on a reality that we mostly choose to ignore, and it’s this part of the show that starts to really address the issues. It’s a shame, then, that this brave and confrontational performer doesn’t push things a little bit further. She stops short of really making the audience uncomfortable, perhaps because she’s involving a third party who didn’t necessarily sign up for this. It would be good to see this line of questioning taken further, perhaps directed at the wider audience.
Baby Face culminates in ten minutes of carnal frenzy. A bizarre blending of childish and sexual inhibition. Dye delivers an astonishingly frantic physical performance, highly choreographed to create the sensation of totally letting go. She jumps and falls, writhes and crumples in a mesmerizing romp around the stage. In a final scene she lets loose a bottle of talc, creating, with help from Eleni Thomaidou’s lighting design, beautiful visual effects. The simplicity of Baby Face is one of the secrets of its success. The only real prop – a white plastic high chair – is perhaps overused, particularly in dance sequences. Dye’s physicality alone is worth watching for an hour. Her movement and energy are remarkable.
There are a couple of times when the performance provokes laughter, probably resulting from the audience’s relief that they’re not the one chosen for interaction. It’s a risky thing to do in a show like this, to drag some unsuspecting individual from the front row and get them involved – but the selected participant behaves with stalwart grace. The laughter, though, interferes a bit with the tense atmosphere of the piece.
There’s a powerful sound design by Zac Scott. Occasional discordant grinding noises are actually painfully loud and some of Dye’s vocals are lost when she speaks over it. In other parts she uses a hand-held mic though, so perhaps she doesn’t feel it’s essential that we get all of it.
Baby Face is a great hour of in-your-face performance, uncompromising and provocative, it just falls slightly short of really getting to the bottom of the questions it seeks to raise.
Reviewed on 20 March 2019 | Image: Daniel Hughes