Written by Bryony Kimmings, the hilarious and fearless performance artist from London and her boyfriend Tim Grayburn the hilarious and fearless account manager from a top advertising agency. Fake it ‘til you Make it is Edinburgh Fringe First Winner, Bryony Kimmings’ new work about clinical depression and men… from two people who know ALL about it!
Expect homemade music, stupid dancing, onstage arguments, real-life stories, tears and truths. A wickedly warming, brutally honest and heart-breaking show about the wonders and pitfalls of the human brain, being in love and what it takes to be a ‘real man’.
Bryony Kimmings frequently performs at Latitude festival, and I have seen her do several scratch shows and work in progress pieces. This time however, she graced the theatre tent with a fully formed production, taking a funny and searingly honest look at mental illness, men, and the women who love them.
She performs the piece with her fiancée, Tim Grayburn, and declares at the start that this is to be a love story. This in itself is unusual, as in previous productions Kimmings has portrayed herself as someone who is hopeless or unlucky in love, referencing unsuitable men or one-night stands that never quite get anywhere. To see her here, several months pregnant, and in love is quite a change, and I find myself hoping that her usual irreverent and hilarious self-deprecation won’t be lost in the face of her new found partnership. Of course, thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth.
If you thought Credible, Likeable, Superstar, Role model provided a poignant and harsh commentary on our society, Fake it ‘til You Make it goes even further, creating a platform to talk about chronic depression and the toll it can take on the lives of those who experience it.
Kimmings begins the show by explaining that she has persuaded her boyfriend to leave his job in advertising and go on the road with her for a year, performing this show. His conditions for participation were that he did not show his face, and got to learn the guitar. So, throughout the show, Tim wears a series of masks, glasses and bizarre hats to conceal his identity, something that of course also helps reflect the shame and secrecy of having a mental illness.
There is a lovely structure to the piece, and Kimmings and Grayburn speak about their relationship and how his chronic depression played out within it. This is done partly by them speaking into microphones, (amidst the peculiar dances one would expect from Bryony Kimmings), but mainly by them playing recordings that they made in their flat, where they spoke about their deepest feelings and fears connected with Tim’s chronic depression. It is an incredible privilege and insight to be able to hear these conversations, especially as we hear that Grayburn never spoke to anyone about this before meeting Kimmings, so great was his embarrassment and confusion.
However, the crowning glory of the piece, was when, at the end, Grayburn stepped forward to the microphone, unmasked. Throughout the show we had seen this faceless body, dancing around confidently with Kimmings, associating this figure with depression, laying upon it all of our own assumptions and experiences around the condition. Yet when he stood before us, raw and open, he was entirely revealed. Without the mask, the performer in him dropped away and you could see the ordinary, handsome, man who works in advertising, standing there self-consciously, doing one of the bravest things I have seen on stage.
He spoke entirely candidly about his depression and how this was almost certainly something he would be facing his whole life. He spoke about what it meant to be a man with depression, and the ridiculous ideals of masculinity that depression undermines, making it almost impossible to seek help. It was an incredibly moving and important speech, that had large swathes of the audience in tears, and ensured that this show got an Outstanding rating. It was the best thing I saw at Latitude, if not this year.