Thursday, 26 October 2000

How to Shop , Oct 26, 2000

by Bobby Baker
at Athenaeum I until  October 31, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Have you ever been scared to enter a supermarket? In her show, How To Shop, British performance artist, Bobby Baker, has handy and peculiar advice for those with shopping paranoia.

How To Shop is actually presented as a lecture complete with lectern, slides and short film images as well as a cooking-show-style overhead camera for demonstrations.

Baker is a charming, warm and funny character on stage. She is a weird blend of UK comediennes, Victoria Wood and Penelope Keith.

The first fifteen minutes are quirky, satirical and promising as unusual comic entertainment. What follows does not live up to expectations. It lacks structure and the presentation is loose beyond the point of being post-modern or funny.

The basic premise of ridiculing shopping is a good one. There are some wonderfully oddball ideas and images but it never quite hits the theatrical or comic mark.

Her style is steeped in pure English irony and she satirises not only the suburban shopping obsession but those intellectuals who raise the banal to philosophical heights. She quotes theorists on shopping. Who spends their time writing those theses?

 She feigns academic qualifications as she leads us through her bizarre and loosely structured rave. As we are taught to negotiate a supermarket we discover how to reach a state of heavenly bliss.

In order to reach such shopping nirvana, we must go on a religious quest for the seven virtues. She does so with slides of her personal journey  through The Co-op Supermarket in Croydon, London.

We seek humility in parsley, Obedience in anchovies, Patience in shaving cream, Joy in apples, Courage in olive oil, Compassion in red wine. Our final challenge is to find Love that evidently is secreted in the freshly baked bread.

Baker engages in plenty of odd on-stage action that is amusing but often directionless. She stuffs an anchovy tin in her mouth on God's command, slurps soapy water, slops shaving cream over herself, bathes in red wine on screen and sings seductively to a toffee apple.  We also hear an elderly woman sing Dance Little Fishies.

How to Shop, commissioned by the London International Theatre Festival in 1993 and developed with Polona Baloh-Brown, is the second of a series of five pieces in her Daily Life series.

By Kate Herbert

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