If you like your theatre a bit like politics – absurd and sometimes contradictory – then ‘Baby With The Bathwater’ might be your cup of tea.
Originally written by Christopher Durang in the early ’80s, the play has been suitably updated to include references the audience will be more familiar with.
Danxia Yang plays the principal in the Brisbane Arts Theatre-staged show. “She is one, wacky character. Considering she’s in a position of education, whatever you expect a person working in education to be like, she is the exact opposite of that.”
Save for a couple of characters, the theme of wackiness runs throughout the play. “It’s a dark comedy. In theatrical terms you would call it absurdity. The first rule of the movie ‘Fight Club’ is that you don’t talk about ‘Fight Club’. The first rule with ‘Baby With The Bathwater’ is that everything is permitted and there are no rules. It’s wacky, it’s over the top, it’s just insane.
“There’s a lot of political correctness going on at the moment. But with this play, there is no such thing as political correctness, it just goes for everything.”
Danxia’s own background is almost as interesting as her character. Born in China and raised in Norway, she has carved out a career teaching English to adults. But Danxia always had aspirations to be an actor. “This will be my debut in theatre. I liked the fact that [this character] was out there. For me as an actor this character allowed me to do be wackadoodle crazy.
“I never really pursued acting because I come from an Asian background. That was not something you really thought about doing, but now I’ve grown older I’ve become more confident and wanted to try it.
“If I’m able to go out and do something crazy… then it should encourage my students to go out and do what they want. However, if I behaved like [my character] does, I wouldn’t have a job!
“The best word to describe her is crazy. She is a strong woman as well, but she’s over the top in so many ways. It’s great fun for an actor to play… She is not professional. She has relationships with her co-workers; she tends to not be as caring as you’d hope she would be. She’s a living cartoon character, dressed in a zebra split-dress, which is unconventional for a principal but she sets the school’s policies so it’s ok.”
The play focuses on a baby boy named Daisy, whose parents John and Helen declare it impolite to check what gender he is. “We want people to have fun, because it is a dark comedy and it is absurd. Some people might people find it a bit confusing at first, but try not to think too much and just go with it. If you over think it you’ll miss out on the gags and you’ll probably get a headache.”
Since it’s her acting debut, Danxia is relieved to be working with Brisbane Arts Theatre team. “We’re taking an organic approach and the director allows us to have a say in what goes on, so it’s collaborative. It’s a sense of community that helps to take the edge off a bit so you’re not so nervous. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous!”
While she says that all theatre can have its controversial elements, Danxia says the wacky approach to an already wacky play is sure to inspire more laughs than deep refection. “I hope that people come and have a great time and have a few good laughs. It will be the beginning of the year, so you want to start off with something fun.”
(published 5/Jan/16 http://scenestr.com.au/arts/born-into-the-bizarre-baby-with-the-bathwater)