Are you aware of what examples you set to young girls around you? Do you worry that you tell them to be natural and yet slather make-up on every morning? Bryony Kimmings does. The result is Credible: devised and performed by Kimmings and her niece Taylor, it is a “story of a year of discovery” tracing the realisations Kimmings has about pop culture’s negative influence on Taylor.
Credible is compellingly volatile show. It sways between deftly choreographed, abrasive movement sequences, aided by a stormy techno soundtrack and witty speeches to the audience. Most notably, when Kimmings copies Taylor’s enthusiastic dance moves to Katy Perry but strips down to bra and metallic leggings, what we see as innocent shimmying is shown to be a nine-year-old’s disquieting attempt to emulate sexual promiscuity.
Kimmings’ presentation of her relationship with Taylor avoids a staged sentimentality, navigating a quirky aunt-niece rapport with comic honesty and self-deprecation. She presents a gritty rather than gushy tenderness when, armour-clad like a latter-day Joan of Arc, she punches the air, lashing out at the explicit images the Internet offers up to her niece. Together the pair comes up with an entertaining solution to the vapid examples Disney princesses provide. Meet Catherine Bennett, a pop star/palaeontologist who wears red lipstick and knee-length skirts. Kimmings as Bennett sings charmingly zany songs accompanied with animal gestures; certainly the playful product of a child’s imagination and a charismatic counterpoint to Disney.
In a final act of dress-up, the pair dances to the Jessie J clothed in medieval dresses, an attempt by Kimmings to fashion Taylor as a princess – Catherine the Great not Cinderella – that is worth mimicking. Through Kimmings’ fierce and frantic protectiveness, a heart-breaking pathos emerges, and an inspiration to be, not a ‘citizen of the world’ as Kimmings initially aspires to, but a responsible prop to the aspirations of the girl who relies on her. In exploring her niece’s interpretation of the world, Kimmings considers her own responsibility in guiding and aiding that interpretation.
Credible is a bold show, not necessarily answering all the questions about sexualised influences on young girls, but posing questions in thoroughly imaginative and provoking ways. It was in Oxford for one night only, with further dates on their tour planned – pick a city and go.
PHOTOS/ North WAll Arts Centre