Whilst I’m not proud to admit this, I, along with performance artist Bryony Kimmings, have had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from a boyfriend. Whilst I may have kept this piece of information between myself and close friends (until now…), Kimmings has created a show to document her journey from discovery of the STI, to hunting down who she may have given it too, and eventually finding the STI-giving culprit. Sex Idiot is a stand for anyone who has, like me, been subjected to prodding, swabbing and humiliation by the reckless actions of someone we cared for.
Bryony Kimmings, I salute you.
There is moment within Sex Idiot when Kimmings declares that performance art will generally feature nudity, confessions and excretion, and the best ones have all three. She’s not wrong. Whilst Sex Idiot holds back on full frontal shit-smearing extravagance it is packed with wit, charm and an openness to sex that had even prudish me with joy and contemplating cutting my pubic hair in the name of performance art.
Over the course of Sex Idiot, Kimmings takes us on a journey of discovery, from the average number of sexual partners (10 apparently), to the nitty gritty of knicker-torn, hair crumpled, orgasmic sex, and, of course, the repercussions. There is a nice message to Kimmings’s work that seeps into the hilarious comedy of her actions: if you don’t wear a condom then expect the worst, no matter how clear, respectful or good looking the partner might be.
As a performer, Kimmings is entrancing to watch, giving passion in her humour, sassiness in her interpretive dancing and a sense of openness that I’ve not experienced from a performance in a long time. In fact everything about Sex Idiot is brilliantly conceived and executed, and it will have you crying from laughter and eventually shedding a tear of pity for Kimmings as she ends her journey.
Sex Idiot is split into the various acts that Kimmings performs, most of which are dedicated to previous boyfriends, such as “The headache of being in a relationship with Ben”, where Kemmings repeatedly hits herself over the head with a bunch of flowers. There is a song about what to call your vagina, (a particular favourite of mine was a “mackerel in a fur coat”) and even a chance to cut your pubic hair to make a moustache. Writing about it now it sounds absurd, but in the moment it all makes perfect arty-sense.
Kimmings explores what it is like to feel violated; she puts her heart into the performance space and painfully attempts to destroy it for us. Sex is exposed as a pleasure that has its faults, and whilst we might imagine we’re falling in love, or feel a desire to crawl into the very essence of someone, the reality is we all get hurt, tossed out with the sagging remains of a condom and expected to ‘move on’.
What Kimmings does is to tell us like it is, frankly and hilariously honestly. She prances around wielding her infected vagina so we don’t have to. She empowers us to name and shame those that infected us, and she delivers one of the best performances of Mayfest.
After winning a Total Theatre award in 2011 for Best Emerging Company, my bet is that Kimmings will go on to produce more exhilarating shows making her one of the must-sees of contemporary theatre. Remember the name, and be expected to confront everything that isn’t spoken about – especially sex, sex, and fucking sex.