Baby Paradise: Part One & Part Two

Although sold as two different shows, Baby Paradise: Part One and Part Two are very much the same production. With little more than a ten minute interval between the two, the performance is barely disrupted as the majority of the audience return to their seats. When you first arrive for Part One, unclothed barbie dolls are sitting bolt upright in your chair. If you are not weirded out by that point, you soon will be. German theatre group Bambule.babys just about fuel this surreal, uncomfortably playful piece of immersive theatre with a commentary on the sexual objectification of women, albeit one burdened with inconsistency.

A one-woman play, the protagonist, Baby (Anna Valeska Pohl), remembers her relationship with a now porn star and talks the audience through the various personalities of the dolls that she surrounds herself with. The air is sexually charged, with dim pink lighting and Pohl moving herself voluptuously across the stage in a deliberately emphasised manner. While there is no real plot, Baby switches from encouraging audience interaction with the dolls to discussing some troubling experiences in the industry. The backbone of the show is a feminist retelling of the Hades-Persephone myth from Ancient Greece, in which Hades abducts Persephone and forces her to be his wife.

The metaphor is clear – the way that Baby’s dolls are casually used and tossed aside, seen as nothing more than objects designed for gratification, represents the sexual gaze often pointed towards women. Baby Paradise’s theme is therefore not that unique, but the approach is, with Baby taking the audience into a claustrophobic void of desire and hurt that leaves a dryness in the back of your throat. Part of the reason this works is down to an incredibly committed performance from Pohl. Over the course of two hours she teases, taunts and reveals her own troubles in a constantly fixating manner. The subtle tongue-in-cheek method of her approach won’t sit well with everyone – you would be forgiven for finding it out of place given the subject matter and the overall mood of the play – but nobody can doubt the ferocity of the acting shown here.

Where Baby Paradise let itself down is with audience reaction. It is not clear if onlookers are meant to be shocked, laughing or simply sat still and listening. Baby’s mocking behaviour, decrying objectification in the subtext, is engaging but never settles on what response it is aiming for. It jars between moments of unsettling humour and bleak description. This often depends on whether a particular audience member feels compelled to give a smart-alec reply to one of Baby’s questions, which triggers giggles among the audience when this may not perhaps be best. Ice-breaking humour can be used to great effect in serious drama, but the unpredictability factor present in audience interaction is something that Baby Paradise struggles to control, and as such you are unsure how you are meant to be feeling other than mildly unsettled.

The significance that this show carves for itself cannot be understated (one specific reference to Donald Trump hits the mark perfectly in terms of what it wants to point out), and to give a performance such as this for two hours demonstrates incredible ability and dedication from Pohl. What stops Baby Paradise being revolutionary, however, is the unfocused messages and involvement of the audience, a tactic that does not work well and prevents the show from revealing what it really wants to achieve.

 

Baby Paradise: Part One

C Venues – C Royale – Studio 3 (Venue 6)

Run Ended

Buy tickets here

 

Baby Paradise: Part Two

C Venues – C Royale – Studio 3 (Venue 6)

Run Ended

Buy tickets here

 

Image: Robert Flscher

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