Monday, 31 July 2017

Dramaturgy Shy: Katy Baird @ Edfringe 2017

Disco music, pop culture and free chips... Webcam modelling, drug dealing and flipping burgers: Katy Baird explores what we are and aren’t willing to do for money.  A show about work – the best jobs, the worst jobs, and everything in between.

Some people work to earn money, some work to feel fulfilled, some people don’t work at all and some people run away and join the circus… Join Glasgow-born, London-based artist and activist  Katy Baird at Summerhall (Venue 26), one of the Edinburgh Fringe’s most exciting venues, for a very personal story looking at the ups and downs of what it means to serve you – the great British public. 

For the last twenty years, Katy has been at the frontline of the customer service industry. From getting you high to supersizing your whopper meal, she has done everything she can to make you happy.

Workshy is a unique, vulnerable, often hilarious autobiographical portrayal of the relationship between labour, class and aspiration.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

This performance is about work and the things we do for money. It is my own personal story about the jobs I have done and the various ways – both illegal and illegal - that I have made ends meet. 

In the show I talk about working for over a decade in those service-sector jobs that we all engage with but often don’t even notice. When you go for dinner, when you travel or when you go out on a Saturday night there is always someone there serving you and for a long time that someone was me! In fact, it still is me but I am just doing it in a much more visible way now. 

I also talk about the way we make money below the radar – all the hustling to get by when you just cant face serving people 8 hours a day for little thanks and little money. Those times when what you need more than anything is to have some agency and just be someone for a change.

I was inspired to make this show because I feel that voices like mine are not heard enough on stage. It is real life I am talking about - my life, my world and my story. This is not a performance written by someone about what they think this life is like and performed by actors from a completely different background pretending to have had these experiences. It is not bittersweet, its not a coming-of-age drama where we realise that everything will be fine in the end. 

It is confrontational, unapologetic and most importantly funny – cause life can be all these things sometimes! 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Well I have to say a big YES to this otherwise why would I do it? At the moment it feels more important than ever. So much of our lives are virtual and online now that we need and crave space to congregate, to think, to have a dialogue. 

Creating a dialogue is particularly important to me and I create the space in Workshy to hear from my audience – I ask them about their life and their aspirations directly. I also intentionally create a moment where we can all come together and chat about the ideas brought up within the show informally and with a drink. This for me is super important because then we can talk and share experiences and thoughts together.  

It is not the job of performance to tell us what to think. Its function is to pose questions and ideas in order to enable us to possibly think and feel about things in a different way. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

I was in the right place at the right time! When I was 26 I made the decision to go back to school and began an Access to University Course at Stow College in my hometown of Glasgow. This led to a degree in Sociology and Theatre at Glasgow University, which I began in 2003. The early noughties were an amazing time for performance in Glasgow.

The annual National Review of Live Art festival was in full force bringing the most political and influential artists working in live performance to Glasgow every single year! Back then both the Tramway and CCA also had fantastic performance programmes and I was exposed, for the first time, to the work of Forced Entertainment, Campo, Gob Squad, Lois Weaver and Annie Sprinkle to name a few. 

Not forgetting the wonderful Arches – a performance space that supported Glasgow based artists like myself, showing my first ever performance, as well as more established UK and international artists and was such an important part of the performance ecology in Glasgow. This was an incredibly exciting time where it felt like anything was possible and I became inspired to make-work and to be part of this weird and wonderful community of artists. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

This is my first full length theatre show and it took me four years to make.  I started preforming first drafts and small ideas and slowly worked on developing it whilst also working full time in office administration so it was a stop and start kind of process. I asked for help where I could and I watched a lot of performances and did a lot of research into what I wanted to talk about. It was a total labour of love for a long time but the hard work has been work it as it led to an amazing UK and international tour and now Edinburgh.  

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I would suggest that Workshy plays with the conventions of theatre but it is most definitely a theatre show, this is a departure from my other artistic work which is often body based and and performed in Live Art Festivals or club contexts. 

With Workshy I wanted to reach a new and different audience this is why I am so excited about preforming at Summerhall and the Fringe in general. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

First and foremost I hope that they will laugh and have fun. Although we will all have just met I try to make it feel like we are all down the pub together having a few drinks and maybe doing that classic thing of disclosing a little to much information with people you have just met in a social situation.  

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I use the same strategies I learned whilst selling drugs - always be nice, always treat everyone like an old friend and most importantly always make sure you deliver a product of very high quality! 

In this new personal, political performance, Katy puts herself out there one more time to serve you, giving you everything you want with a little help from some disco classics, drinks from Katy’s Bar, a mid-show delivery of free chips for everyone in the audience, and of course, plenty of ketchup. At the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time following a successful UK tour, including shows at the Folkestone Fringe, IBT Bristol International Festival, and in Hamburg, Germany.

Workshy is a potted history of my employment life,” says Katy. “Over the last twenty years I have spent my time working in Butlins, Burger King, Wetherspoons, as a drug-dealer, as a kitchen porter, on the dole, on the sick, in nightclubs, as a sex-webcam ‘model’ and most recently as an artist and Arts Administrator. 

Workshy is a performance to be enjoyed and to be consumed; it is an opportunity to be able to spend time with new people, to see a bit of your life on stage, and to consider how we see and think of people in relation to their working environment. It’s about going behind the headlines and challenging the negative media narratives.” 

Unflinching critique of austerity Britain; savage class satire; a night down the pub... all that and a bag of chips!

Summerhall – Anatomy Lecture Theatre | 2-27 August, 21.10 (NOT 3rd, 9th, 16th, 21st)
£9 / £7 / £5 | 75 MINS | 18+ (CONTAINS NUDITY, ALCOHOL SERVED) 

Katy Baird is a Glasgow born, London-based artist and activist who often finds herself in uncomfortable situations of her own making. Her solo work is intimate and autobiographical, reflecting on gender, class and sexuality. She has performed at Live Art festivals and venues across the UK as well as squat parties, clubs and raves.

Deviser and performer: Katy Baird
Production Manager & Lights: Patricia Roldan-Polo
Producer: Emma Beverley
Listings information:
Summerhall (Venue 26) – Anatomy Lecture Theatre | 2-27 August, 21.10 | (No show on 3rd, 9th, 16th & 21st August)
Tickets £9/£7/£5 | 75 mins | 18+ (Contains nudity, alcohol served)

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