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Interview: Bryony Kimmings Talks Sex, Booze and Performance

In the Run Riot Interview, Bryony Kimmings, artist and truth seeker invites us through a window to her world, from her early days of bumming around in St. Ives as a sandwich deliverer, to getting into Live Art, challenging some classic British taboos, getting totally blottoed in the name of performance, being a photographer for cult camera company Lomography, and - yes - the whole STD thing! Her show Sex Idiot runs at the Soho Theatre 6-9 & 13-16 April. On top of that - catch her at Run Riot Live 'The Fool' on Sat 2 April with The Hall of Gratuitous Praise - an installation for feel good toilet based moments of joy and self-worth.

 

Run Riot: Bryony Kimmings - you are one hot number! But has it always been like this? What were you doing during the noughties, before life with Sex Idiot?

Bryony Kimmings: I studied theatre, I guess hoping to be an actress, although in a bit of a half assed way. It was the stage or law, being a barrister is similar to being an actress I guess! I graduated from Brunel in 2003, eyes widened to the diversity of performance work from the 20th Century. It was Live Art and the history of performance artists that excited me the most and I started a company called Glass Eyed with some friends and we spent 2 years making work (pretty bad work, but I think that's normal for emerging artists) and bumming around my home town, St. Ives in Cambridgeshire. I worked as a sandwich deliverer, in the fens (a particularly bleak part of the country) driving a sandwich van that had a massive witches hat on the top of it! The work was seedy and sketchy and lots of fun.

After some small tours we wanted to make a larger, longer running project and combine our love for silly videos, club nights and performing. Celebrityville was born, it ran from 2006 to 2008 at Soho Revue bar and then the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. It was a soap cabaret, based in an imaginary city where everyone was a washed up celebrity. A new show was created every MONTH! This gave me a baptism of fire really, making such a large volume of work, learning about how to run a night, what to do if things broke half way through, making costumes, doing marketing - everything. Artists are very enterprising people! It gave me a good base of what audiences want, what works and what doesn't.

That period of my life was a great time. Then my two collaborators had a baby and moved to new york respectively and I was left wondering if I should continue to make work. The Junction in Cambridge had always supported my work and offered a place on Escalator, a research and development scheme that supports artists in new projects. I wanted to see if I would be any good at making the Live Art I had loved at University, moving away from cabaret and short works to a longer autobiographical based practice. I was going through a confusing break up, I had contracted this disease and was genuinely worried about its origin and Sex Idiot was born.

RR: It seems that the essence of your work is to look at the taboos and anomalies of British culture and turn them on their head. Was there a particular incident or phase in your life that triggered this wonderfully refreshing and liberating sentiment?

BK: I think that I seek the truth. My family are a bunch of feisty women, we are all very different but in one way we are all very similar. We don't like injustice, my little sister is particularly political on this subject. So I think we've always just been very outwardly spoken. Coming from a company that made work about the seedier sides of British life there has always been a focus on the UK, and its little nuances. I love a good seaside town, I love regional dialects, I am sucker for a good yarn. I love the way in which British people behave, it fascinates me. So I think when I had some time and space to begin to develop a solo practice as an artist these things naturally married. I feel there are a lot of stones unturned and it's my job to pick them up and give them a good going over! The next show is about the intrinsic links between artists and alcoholism but explores the problem of alcohol abuse more widely, the following show is about class, which I am very excited about. I guess in a way it is an artist's duty to say and explore the things that are untouchable, or hard to talk about. If a loud mouth performance artist won't do it who will!?

RR: Sex Idiot is a hearty, raw and honest, and funny take on female sexuality - and love. Without spoiling it for the audience, what's the message you want to convey? What is the most poignant moment for you?

BK: I think there were two important lessons I learnt during the research period and for me they were the things I wanted to convey.

1) Celebrate your history. Don't forget people or things because they were difficult or long-long ago. It is lovely to take a trip down memory lane you can learn so much about yourself.


2) We need to talk more about sexual health in the UK, it is still a taboo subject in a world with very few taboos left.

The show is not a moralistic piece, its about what happens if you try to attempt to find the origin of something. It's funny and silly and in places it is sad.

RR: For those who sport a Brazilian (or Boyzilian), how can they actively contribute to Sex Idiot?

BK: I think what I always wanted for my audience was for them to feel part of the show, that it wasn't just one ditsy girl talking about her sex life. That somehow the work begs for you to connect with it, agree with it, know the feelings in which it is talking about, and in turn laugh at yourself, make decisions about your own life or history, even feel compelled to pick up the phone or have a STD test. So even if you don't have pubes to share come with an open mind and I guarantee you will leave having opened up and looked inside yourself just a little bit. There is a bit of a rave too, so you could always have a bit of a bop? Urgh did I just say bop!?

RR: You're one of the 'Soho Six' at the Soho Theatre where you're receiving developmental support with writing, working towards a full commission and production. can you tell us about what you're working on? Is it 7 Day Drunk?

BK: It is '7 Day Drunk' dear, yes. I feel I am a better artist when drunk or hungover, which I think is a slippery slope, but this is of course not uncommon for creative people. There is a battle between science and art that fascinates me. Science cannot condone the abuse of alcohol or mind enhancing drugs so the theory that they make you more creative is un-proven. Yet artists for centuries have been disproving this by coming up with some of the most influencial work when high. I am going into a studio for 7 days with a pharmacologist, psychologist, IT expert, documentary film maker, sociologist and test audience to see if indeed I AM a better artist when drunk. I am so excited about it. I cannot wait to see what happens. The show is then about that 7 day period. It will be in Edinburgh in August, it is co-commissioned by Soho Theatre and Junction. It should come back to London in autumn. I love the fact that the material will come from this week, nowhere else, so I have the potential to fail. Failure is always funny!

RR: Words out that Ms. Kimmings is also contributing to the highly anticipated Lomography City Guide to London - fact or fiction? If true, what's that all about?

BK: Fiction, I am a Lomo Amigo for April. This means I get a free camera and take pictures on my tour... they then interview me and put my pictures up on their website. I chose the LCA and I am having such fun double exposing my glitteriest outfits! I HOPE they ask me to contribute to the guide, I love London, it's my second favourite city (Cambridge, with all its weird polarities and mixtures of people is my favourite, it's so beautiful and my hometown). I reckon I have some good secret places that could go into a guide that would make people happy... places to see some ridiculously good performance.

RR: Where's your most romantic spot in London?

BK: Its funny, not one place sticks out. Its more anywhere empty. Empty parks, empty restaurants and streets. I like the feeling of being totally alone with someone. It might be because I am a country girl at heart, wide open spaces make me feel good. The top of primrose hill never stops taking my breath away, curled up under a tree in Victoria Park is heaven, eating with my partner at the wrong time of day in a secluded little place with no-one around is wonderful. I am time poor, so romance for me is quality time. Try Porters on Roman Road, it's a funny place but the food and the cost make it superb and the man that runs it is a treat. The Palm Tree on a Friday night, locked in the arms of my wonderful man as the house band croon out 50's classics.

RR: What is your ultimate, 'anything-goes' fantasy production?

BK: Gosh, I guess for me it would be such a luxury to have a huge stage. A lot of people on that stage too, as at the moment it's just me. How about 100 people dressed as me!? You know, I have a fear about success... so often you as you get better known you GROW... budgets grow, expectations grow, tech grows, and with it your ideas have to grow... well what if you just wanted a mic and a killer gown? if that's the kind of artist you were when people thought you were good then dreaming things bigger and better might not always work. 7 day drunk is my difficult second album... let me worry about getting that right first! Although if I got to keep everything after the show, then it would have a yacht in it, a mansion, gold bullion and the little boys from One Direction, I could do with some all singing cleaning slaves!

 

Bryony Kimmings Official website: www.bryonykimmings.com

The Hall of Gratuitous Praise at Run Riot Live 'The Fool' Sat 2 April: www.run-riot.com

Sex Idiot runs at the Soho Theatre 6-9 & 13-16 April: www.sohotheatre.com