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Bobby Baker’s Mad Gyms and Kitchens at the Southbank Centre
On Friday, the Psychobitches went on a research trip to the Southbank Centre to watch Bobby Baker’s performance Mad Gyms and Kitchens.
Bella Bunn was already very familiar with Bobby’s work (a large chunk of her first project in her final year of university was about it!), but I (Polly Kettle) have only recently been introduced to her art.
Prepare to be surprised and delighted, moved and enlightened as Bobby demonstrates how she achieves that ultimate ‘wellbeing’ factor. From working-out to chilling out, via the kitchen sink, Bobby’s wellness roadshow investigates how to get better at feeling better – cup of tea included.
This is the official spiel on Bobby’s website http://dailylifeltd.co.uk/, but wonderful as it sounds, it still doesn’t do this inspiring, uplifting and motivating show justice.
Bobby is an instantly likeable figure. Her dodgy knee doesn’t stop her careering about her “stage”, she’s disarmingly self-deprecating, and not pretentious in the slightest (something I’ve unfortunately come to regard as a rarity for a performance artist!) This made our encounter with her warm and accessible, and I wasn’t at all afraid to go and have a chat with her afterwards, despite my social phobia and tendency towards being starstruck.
Mad Gyms and Kitchens is, to all intents and purposes, a show about illness and recovery. Bobby (like us) has run the full gamut of mental illness, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Really though, the performance is about wellness. Bobby shares with us, with good grace and humour, her road(s) to recovery, and tips and tricks for getting and staying well. However, she emphasises that these are just her strategies; we may be inspired by her ideas and attitudes, but ultimately we must find our own ways of being well, and these differ for each person.
To help us along the way, at the end of her performance Bobby got us crafting! This was very much Psychobitches-approved, both Bella and myself being avid, compulsive crafters. To add to the therapeutic experience, Bobby threw in a mug of tea and a few biscuits for us. (I had a ginger nut to go with my ginger tea.)
We were instructed to write and/or draw our best personal tips for staying well (but only if we wanted to share them!) Mine included “Sex”, “Sewing”, and “West Wing” (the television series), and Bella “Shopping vicariously through others” and “Having a bed-time routine”.
What I found most inspiring about Bobby’s performance was how it normalised illness and recovery. As Bobby mentioned afterwards, everyone is on a spectrum of wellness. This is such a positive attitude to have, and a really good push towards seeing mental illness as equally as valid and “real” as physical illnesses.
I also strongly related to some of the experiences she shared with us. For example, Bobby spoke about feeling like she was “walking through treacle” when on strong anti-psychotic medication. I had precisely the same experience, and wasn’t able to walk at all in some instances. It was so wonderful to hear experiences like these spoken about so openly and with such compassion.
Four thumbs up from the Psychobitches, Bobby; you’ve earned our (very unofficial and inconsequential) seal of approval. Thank you.