In an audacious, provocative protest against the world’s flagrant attempts to sexualise and commodify childhood for profit, award-winning performance artist Kimmings and her 9 year-old niece Taylor decided to take on the global tween machine at its own game.
Taylor invented a dinosaur-loving, bike-riding, tuna pasta eating alternative popstar called Catherine Bennett and Bryony promised to embody her, do everything that Taylor told her to and make her famous… like SUPER FAMOUS!
Bryony Kimmings is known for her unconventional shows, which revolve around her doing something wacky, or participating in some sort of experiment and then making a performance about it. (See her previous show, 7 days drunk, where she got blind drunk for 7 days straight, filmed it and made a piece reflecting on the experience.)
What she did at Latitude was only billed as ‘Bryony Kimmings’, and the material she shared was more of a series of sketches and songs around a theme, rather than a rounded show. My understanding is that up in Edinburgh she is performing with her niece in a production entitled, ‘Credible, Likeable, Superstar Role Model’, which will be more of a polished and structured performance. Quite why she didn’t preview this at Latitude I don’t know, but maybe the set/ venue weren’t suitable. However, it has titillated my tastebuds enough to make me want to go to Edinburgh and see her new show, as I think what she is trying to do is interesting and important.
Bryony has a 9 year old niece called Taylor, who performs with her in the show. She is a sweet, pretty little girl, who is impressively confident while speaking in front of a group of strangers in a large tent while music booms outside. Bryony and Taylor decided that all the current superstars who are role models for young girls are not in fact very good role models at all, as they promote negative values which cause young girls to become over sexualised at a young age, and place too much emphasis on looks and material possessions. Therefore Bryony worked with Taylor to come up with a new pop superstar, who possessed all the values that Taylor and her friends shared, and who could become a positive force for good amongst the young girls who currently look to the Beyonce’s and Rhianna’s of this world for inspiration.
Thus Catherine Bennet was born. She like tuna pasta, cares about the animals of the planet, wears knee length skirts and sparkly jumpers, and has a froth of blonde hair. She sings songs in a Lily Allen style which focus on friendship, ecology, the future of the world, and which have excellent dances to get involved in. What we saw at Latitude was a snapshot of Catherine Bennet’s work, and also a bit about her creation. The crafting of a potty-mouthed performance artist into a wholesome pop star is quite an entertaining thought, and I hope to see more of this process in the Edinburgh show.
I thoroughly enjoyed dancing around the tent to the song about the animals with many funny hand gestures and silly actions, and I am sure that the kids in the schools that Catherine Bennet has been visiting have also enjoyed it. Bryony and Taylor have the ambitious goal of creating a pop star with a million hits on You Tube, and various other markers of success. I really hope they succeed, as the world needs a few more Catherine Bennet’s to guide them and a few less skimpily clad booty shakers who make young girls feel inadequate.
I am giving the show, in this incarnation, three stars, purely because it didn’t really feel like a show. It ended rather abruptly and didn’t have any real structure or form. However, the overriding idea behind the piece is interesting and important, and I am sure that in Edinburgh it will be in an entirely different format and thus much more enjoyable and watchable.