It’s a bold performer who takes on Katy Perry at her own game but that is what Bryony Kimmings does in her latest show. And, even bolder, she does it with the help of her 11-year old niece, Taylor. Credible Likeable Superstar Rolemodel, a five-star hit at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, is a show about Kimmings’ search for a modern heroine. Not an oversexed pop poppet, not a Disney heroine, but a credible, likeable superstar to inspire young girls.
“I was teaching a group of 10-year old girls and I asked them what they wanted to be when they were older. The ringleader said that she wanted to be on The Only Way is Essex. Then she pretended to have a WAG handbag and a tiny dog and started wiggling her hips. And all the other girls copied,” says Kimmings. “I hadn’t really thought before that the things we take to be trash or light entertainment are actually affecting young girls and their aspirations in a really direct way.”
It was enough to set Kimmings, 33, writing and in her niece Taylor, then nine, she had the perfect foil. The pair developed and perform the show together, dancing provocatively to Jesse J and Katy Perry, taking on female stereotypes with baseball bats and eventually creating an alternative role model, Catherine Bennett, a popstar who wears glasses, likes tuna pasta and knows about dinosaurs.
If that sounds a bit cute, it isn’t. This is very much a show for grown-ups - sparky, funny and sad, a ballsy, witty protest against the hyper-sexualisation of tweens, the commodification of modern life and the horrors of Google. At one point, Kimmings “gouges” Taylor’s eyes out so she can no longer surf the internet. “The message is for us to not just accept that the world is going this way - that we are constantly being sold things and sex is being used to sell them”, says Kimmings. “Children are manipulated into becoming capitalists at a very young age and are being made to feel insecure by the sexual imagery they see everywhere.”
Like Bridget Christie’s award-winning show A Bic for Her, Kimmings’s show taps into a prevailing feminist mood in comedy. Since last summer Credible… has toured the country and Australia. Her alter-ego Catherine Bennett has her own show schedule, having played Latitude festival, the Southbank Centre and visited 300 schools in the last 18 months. A “feminist, mindblowing” children’s show for CBBC is possibly in the pipeline for her too.
Credible… will play its final dates this summer. After that, Taylor will go to secondary school. “She says wants to be a midwife, not a performer”, says Kimmings. “But she’s a feminist and that’s the main thing.” Kimmings is now writing a play about rape culture for Soho Theatre and will show a work in progress at Edinburgh’s Forest Fringe in August. “I’ve made it with my partner, who is not a performer. It’s about men’s mental health, a comedy show about depression.” Well if anyone can make it work, Kimmings can.
MAC, Birmingham, tonight; Soho Theatre, London, 24 to 28 June; Brighton Dome, 3 July (www.bryonykimmings.com)
He has lived with being the man behind the fast-talking Vicky yeah-but-no-but-yeah Pollard for years, now Matt Lucas is looking for a little peace and quiet. A lot, in fact. His new six-part sitcom, Pompidou, began shooting this week and is remarkable for featuring no dialogue.
Lucas stars as Pompidou, an elderly, eccentric aristocrat who has fallen on hard times. Alex MacQueen plays his loyal butler Hove, and, as with all successful silent comedies (see The Artist) there will be a dog, called Marion.
Silent comedy is back in fashion. Earlier this year, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton made one episode of their superlative storytelling series Inside No. 9 a wordless heist comedy and it received the warmest praise. Before that, the last silent sitcom to be commissioned for television was Mr Bean.