Edinburgh Fringe Scotsman review: Credible Likeable Superstar Rolemodel at Pleasance Dome (Venue 23), reviewed by David Pollock
“Up until now I’ve made very self-obsessed work,” says Bryony Kimmings at one point during her new show, and there’s the verbal equivalent of a sly wink in her voice.
Her previous Fringe shows Sex Idiot and 7 Day Drunk were all about herself and two of her very adult preoccupations (sex and alcohol), yet this tongue-twister of a performance piece shifts focus to her co-star and becomes a work of almost staggering warmth and fragility because of it.
Opening on a wonderfully bubbly and perfectly executed dance sequence to the cheery sound of Jessie J’s Domino, we’re introduced to Kimmings and her nine-year-old niece Taylor, who Kimmings is looking after for the summer. The pair have agreed that Taylor is like a baby deer and the 32-year-old Kimmings is a dinosaur, and the girl has questions for her auntie. What does fenimist (sic) mean? Why did Chris Brown hit Rihanna and she’s still his girlfriend? Why does Katy Perry sing about kissing girls like it’s a bad thing? Why don’t you have any children? “What can I offer that?” pleads Kimmings. “I live in a damp flat in East London, eat McDonald’s three times a week and fund the drugs trade.”
Worse, it’s getting harder and harder to protect Taylor, now tweenaged and primed to be targeted by a pop culture machine intent on selling her things. Among the top-selling items for girls her age, says Kimmings, are Bratz thongs and peelable nails. In one of the most finely-tuned and devastatingly get-the-point-across scenes likely to be witnessed in Edinburgh this August, Taylor innocently mimics the inappropriate dance moves to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream (key lyric: “let’s go all the way tonight”) while a sad-eyed Kimmings does exactly the same in the background wearing bra and Lycra shorts with the air of a stripper going through the motions.
When she thinks of the way children Taylor’s age and younger are being targeted by increasingly lurid and sexualised images in order to consume (or to pester their parents to consume), says Kimmings, it makes her want to fight.
The weapon she and Taylor have created is Catherine Bennett, the pop star this nine-year-old wants to see, who works in a museum with dinosaurs, eats tuna pasta and whose favourite film is War Horse. It’s not a polemic, because Taylor (a wonderful actress, who wears headphones during the adult conversation) isn’t meant to understand what’s so bad for her.
Instead it’s a riot of the fun and fantastical seen through a child’s eyes, filled with dance sequences and make-believe, and a real and genuine sense of familial love and what it means to care for a girl in a world that seems determined to do the opposite.
MORE INFO: Credible Likeable Superstar Rolemodel is at Pleasance Dome
Originally published in The Scotsman