Image by Richard Davenport
“It’s a labour of love.” That is how fearless performance artist, Bryony Kimmings, describes her new up and coming collaboration with partner Tim Grayburn. Fake it Til You Make It explores clinical depression taken from Grayburn’s personal story.
One in four will suffer from mental health issues and 70% of doctors’ queues are filled with patients with those issues. Over the past 30 years, three to four times more men have taken their own lives than women. Mental illness is still a subject with stigma and taboos attached. The problem is that the people who suffer don’t feel like they can talk and Grayburn and Kimmings urge people to do so.
“There wasn’t really a creative process.” Kimmings explains that she just spoke to Tim about what he had been through and recorded it. Grayburn confided in Kimmings and from there they began to form a script to “illustrate” the reality of mental health issues for men. They highlight the NHS, the anxiety and how people “deal with mental health and the stigmas attached”. The piece is currently still being worked on but they are both very confident that their efforts will pay off.
Kimmings loves to surprise the audience, she explained that; “It started as a comedy but the truth of the matter is always there which causes it to be more serious…There are moments of comedy but then something serious or sad happens… The audience will be laughing and then something will slap them in the face which will bring them back to reality.” She emphasised that at the end of the day, “it is an honest and implicit” show about a man’s life.
Earlier this year, they took a small section of Fake It Til You Make It to the Edinburgh Fringe. “It was just great!” Kimmings expressed. She went on to say that some people wrote to her and audience members read out letters of similar struggles. “To hear other people’s experiences was just great…It enforces the importance of speaking about depression.”
“It was terrifying!” Laughs Grayburn. From working in advertising, he never thought that he would be performing on a stage. Grayburn continues to say that he really had to “pluck up the courage” to vulnerably stand on stage and share such a personal and intimate story. However, Grayburn had the strong support from partner Kimmings and the Edinburgh audience, which they both agreed was very supportive.
Grayburn explained to me that the feeling of embarrassment and shame silenced him. There is a stigma attached to mental health issues, much with depression. Fake it Til You Make It“, through dialogue and possibly songs, break the stigmas. “It made light how crazy it (suffering from depression) is and how not talking about it can make it much worse.” Kimmings adds, “I think the very existence of a show about depression breaks down the stigma.”
Alongside working on the show, and writing a musical about cancer, Kimmings runs all day workshops for people in demanding careers and focuses on mental health to encourage them to talk about it. She also ran a survey on the matter as research for their show. “One of the reasons it took me so long to talk about it, is because I didn’t feel that there was any kind of support there for me…There was no one I could talk to.” Grayburn expressed his hopes to create a support network in the business he worked in, for people who are struggling.
The conversation moves onto what the pair are doing next. Excitingly they are taking Fake It Til You Make It to Australia. Then they will return to the UK to perform at the South Bank, Dublin, Edinburgh Festival and SOHO. “It would be great if it was successful but I don’t write to win awards…If it turns out to be a pensive show that just sits in the audiences’ mind, then that’s what it will be.”
It sounds like an exciting time for them both. Their message and Grayburn’s story is being heard and inspiring so many to express themselves and speak up. I wish them the best of luck. Fake It Til You Make It will be London’s South Bank next year.
To read more about Bryony Kimmings, Tim Grayburn and “Fake it til you make it” go to www.bryonykimmings.com