A grown woman and a nine-year-old girl, in matching lace-trimmed page-boy outfits and long blonde hair, perform a sexily choreographed disco dance to Jessie J in front of a glittery, woodland backdrop. It’s ridiculous and funny, both like a fairytale and very modern, and a bit unsettling: an accurate description of the whole of Bryony Kimmings’ show, performed with her little niece Taylor. It’s also wonderfully, heart-burstingly righteous.
Kimmings has decided tweenagers are in serious need of new role models: ones that aren’t cup-cake kissing, coyly eyelash fluttering Disney Princesses, or pouting, fame-promoting, product-shifting pornified pop-stars. The pair go on a quest - waging a glittery armour-clad war on no lesser beast than the internet. Kimmings was clearly genuinely horrified when she started Googling as if she were nine, getting a fresh perspective on all the violent, sexualised content and bile that is a mere click away from Taylor’s innocent mind; it makes her feel “filled with all the rage in the world”. She tries gouging Taylor’s eyes out with a spoon - the sound effects are queasy - so she’ll never have to see, say, a girl shitting in another girl’s mouth.
But that won’t do; life is for living. They start a new project to create their own credible likable superstar role model. Kimmings becomes Taylor’s imaginary ideal: Catherine Bennett, a palaeontologist pop star, a “normal lady” who is kind and hard-working and likes animals, tuna pasta and riding bikes. They do now actually go into primary schools, and Catherine has her own website and music videos.
It seems Kimmings has genuinely undergone a life-changing experience. The show still has typical amounts of explicit self-confession from a performer who’s always used her own life for her art; she admits to worrying she doesn't have much to offer a child herself, as someone who lives in a mouldy flat, “doesn't give money to charity, does fund the drugs trade”. But now, Kimmings says with heart-on-sleeve honesty and no little idealism, she really does want to change the world, to make it better for Taylor.
Kimmings’ protective love for this girl is heart-wrenching and tear-welling; her ‘this is what’s wrong with the world’, small-p politics laudably unabashed in their feminist aims. But this show is also dry and witty, warm and silly, and clearly made in cahoots with her charming niece (who's evidently invented her aunt's performing genes, too). Bold, brave and very brilliant; don’t miss.
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