Whether it’s Britney Spears gyrating in school uniform; the rise in plastic surgery, controversy surrounding American Apparel and its underage- looking models, the ubiquitous ‘kawaii’ culture (‘cute’ in Japanese) or Ariana Grande getting lifted up by her minders in a childlike pose, the so – called Lolita complex in pop stars, and modern pop culture in general …seemingly, things doesn’t seem to have shifted much over the last twenty years.
Katy Dye’s Baby Face addresses the inherent paradoxes here: the sexualisation of boys and girls; the infantilism of women.
Using just a high chair (thrown around, straddled and hidden behind) her own body and voice, Dye skilfully dissects the associated tropes and stereotypes of femininity. She precariously navigates the process of growing up.
She is coquette; thrower of tantrums, brat, princess, baby doll, tween into J pop inspired music with a rictus grin, stalker and submissive.
Borders are drawn out in a shower of Johnson’s baby powder and ‘ejaculated’ body lotion, all the while skewering the need for ‘fresh, young, wrinkle free’ skin and taut, hairless bodies.
Possibly the most disturbing sequence happens when Dye’s baby gurgles and raspberries turn into writhing, orgasmic moans.
Or just possibly, it’s the audience interaction. A man is selected from the audience. She coos Marilyn Monroe’s breathy ‘ I Wanna Be Loved By You’, which becomes a low guttural growl. She makes him lift her, stroke her hair, purrs baby talk. He looks nonplussed, and pretty scared.
Her relentless physical energy is used to chilling effect: even the Britney routine is performed with cold eyes and robotic precision, the sexiness all spent.
It’s problematic, funny, heartbreaking and very powerful. Sugar and spite, in a time when things just aren’t right.
Reviewed at Tron Theatre