Get Off review – walking the uncomfortable line between desire and disgust

Last time I saw Katy Baird, she hiked up her skirt and urinated on stage. It wasn’t even her show. Tonight, with the audience all hers, she steps it up a number. On the big projection screen, we get a closeup of her defecating, shot from behind in excruciating detail. Just in case you start to forget, she shows it from another angle later on.

Get Off wedges itself somewhere between desire and disgust, a needy search for beauty overridden by the sweat and grime of reality. Baird is preoccupied by the mess of bodies, of wiped noses, scratched pubes and wiggling lumps of flesh, the ordinary mundanities of our bodies that we usually clean up before we show anyone else. But this intimate, deeply odd piece of performance art isn’t designed to shock. Instead, it seems to reach for brazen honesty, a perhaps over-literal openness. “I want you to want all of me,” she says – to the audience, to an unseen lover, to herself maybe.

Naked on stage but for neon straps embracing her, Baird is warm, loud and lost. She talks about her life coach and the ways she is trying to find connection: her looping dance moves and janky projections are all concerned with time left and time wasted. The screen shows another version of her, looking older and ill, cutting lines of powder with a credit card and passing out on her bed, mumbling incoherently. There are a few small, graceful moments of interaction between the two selves, but it’s hard to define the relationship between them: is the show a distraction from what’s happening on screen, or are the drugs a distraction from the questions she wrangles with on stage?

Given the deliberately disjointed structure, Get Off – co-directed by Kim Noble – is rarely clear or comfortable. Baird follows tangents to the detriment of understanding, dropping in a dance break in lieu of deeper meaning, leaving the existential questions feeling somewhat shallow. But for all its strangeness and forthright vulgarity, Get Off seems to want nothing more complex than to be seen and wanted. It’s as if once Baird has figured that out, the question of how to spend the time that’s left will be much easier to answer.

The Guardian

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