It’s safe to say that in 2015, we have moved on technologically, scientifically and socially in a lot of respects. However, with the latter, socially we are still behind in terms of the perception of mental illness. An issue that usually brushed under the carpet, there appears to be an attitude whereby if it can’t be seen then it doesn’t not exist, except, it does. Inspired to create a piece of theatre placing the issue of mental illness at the forefront, award winning performance artist, Bryony Kimmings speaks to Theatrefullstop about her autobiographical production, Fake It ‘Til You Make It!
‘Fake It ‘Til You Make It’ is an award winning show, having won the ‘Best Theatre Award’ at Perth’s Fringe World Festival and Adelaide Fringe Festival? How did it feel to win the awards?
Oh god amazing of course! I really wanted to prove to Tim just how excellent his story was and I went to Australia with my eyes dead set on those prizes. I knew we had something special, I had worked all winter long on crafting it, on making it a good story but also something more than that… a movement, a moment for real unification and it felt like those cold grey days in my writing room had worked!!
You’ve teamed up with your partner, Tim Grayburn, an Account Manager for an advertising agency to write this production. How is Tim to work with?
He is lovely. We are best mates as well as lovers (and soon to be parents!) so it was a joy to just work with him all the time, when all we had ever known was him getting up at stupid-o-clock to go to work! It was a tough process at times though… tough in terms of skills gaps and how to negotiate these so it felt genuine and Tim never looked stupid or out of his depth… and also because of the nature of the work it was a very emotional journey and we had to look after one another.
You were inspired to create this piece after finding out that Tim had been living with severe clinical depression. Did this make the creation of the production an emotional process?
Yes very much so. The idea with all of my work is that it comes from a place of silence, it is about subjects that we as a society might find taboo or difficult to address. This was no exception. I never wanted to make a show that felt like therapy, that would be the worst. Or a show that was wholly depressing, about depression, so the process was very emotional to get those emotions discovered, compartmentalized and allow us to create something other than that.
What would you like audiences to take away from your production?
I always plan my audience aims before I even put pen to paper:
1) To consider the men in their lives and be more mindful and aware of mental health issues they could be labouring under.
2) To be entertained.
3) To ask questions of the gender roles that we have historically projected onto young boys and girls and ask the question are these roles damaging, limiting and out-dated.
As well as writing and starring in the production, you also direct it as well. How do you juggle all of these responsibilities?
It is what I always do. I don’t believe in writing something and handing it over for someone else to perform and direct. I am a performance artist and that idea seems troublesome, old school and full of potential for flaws. I collaborate with a lot of artists to create my vison… my costume and set designer, my dramaturgs, my sound designer all have equal baring on the creative process as does 100’s of test audiences that are privy to the work in progress as I create.
The production is commissioned by the Southbank Centre and produced by Soho Theatre. It is also supported by organisations such as Arts Council England, and donations from Kickstarter. Do you feel that the manner in which theatre is supported is evolving, or has it remained the same?
I think it has evolved slightly through the invention and adoption of kickstarter and similar websites… but no I think this is a tiny incremental change to a system that has long been the same in the subsidized sector. This is frightening because the tories will be dismantling that as soon as they can no doubt. I think crowd funding has its place but that it has to be seen as a bonus not a right… raising money simply to go to Edinburgh helps no-one but yourself and possibly a few hundred people. I asked for my money to make a show that is an integral part of the challenging of mental health in the main stream press… that was the point, not just going on a jolly.
How would an aspiring theatre maker go about creating important contacts to help commission, produce and stage their work?
Make good work. That is the only logical thing I can say. Its hard to get commissions, to persuade someone to produce you and to get gigs and it takes a lot of time. The only true way to ensure these things will come is to concentrate on making corking work that has originality, strength and something fucking cool to say about the world. Ask people to perform it on open mic and scratch nights, and TRUST that people go to see those things and talk to one another, because in the simplest terms, that is how the industry works.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers, actors and directors?
Get a day job. But don’t make it one that means you use your creative brain or your physical energy. Do lots and lots of reading and get angry about things that strike you as unjust, this will lead to fire in your belly. Just get out and do stuff. I made work for years that no-one saw, it was a waste of time. Find your tribe. Likeminded artists who can help one another.
Interview by Lucy Basaba.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It will be on tour this summer, previewing at the Southbank Centre on Friday 10th and Saturday 18th July. For more information on the production, visit here… For more information on the tour, visit here…