Credible Likeable Superstar Rolemodel[author-post-rating] (3/5 stars)

Bryony Kimmings’s new show, Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, is a mish-mash of ideas, tropes and songs. It feels like it was created by a child – it’s scattershot and doesn’t really make any narrative sense. This would normally be a big criticism, but since Credible Likeable is Kimmings’s project with her nine-year-old niece, Taylor, it just about gets away with its confused style because Taylor, who appears onstage herself alongside her aunt, comes across as such a self-possessed and friendly little girl.

Kimmings is a performance artist whose work is usually autobiographical. This time, she started bonding with her niece and thinking about how the world appears to a nine-year-old. She takes us through the concept of “tweens”, pester power and the need to fit in, as Taylor sweetly asks, “What does fenimist [sic] mean?”. The project that Kimmings came up with in response is wonderful: she and Taylor have created a new role model for girls of Taylor’s age, a tuna-pasta-eating, bike-riding pop star who works in a dinosaur museum, and has a boyfriend who’s a proofreader and a best friend who’s a midwife. She sings songs about animals and apathy, and her dance moves are far removed from the overtly sexualised routines that Katy Perry and Rihanna encourage their young fans to copy. Watching Taylor and Kimmings dance along to a Perry track, both doing the same sexy dance, is one of the more disturbing parts of the show.

There are other uncomfortable moments, too: have Taylor onstage the whole time is an effective way to make us confront the importance of what Kimmings is doing, and while it is clearly her intention to make us think, there are moments when it does feel that it goes too far. As Kimmings herself shows us, she can’t protect Taylor from the world, except perhaps by deafening and blinding her.

The show, then, takes us through the creation of the project, from Kimmings’s first vague need to do something through to the creation of Catherine Bennett under Taylor’s direction. We meet versions of Kimmings and Taylor, and we meet Catherine Bennett. We see Kimmings and Taylor take on the world, with baseball bats and, when those don’t work, machine guns. We see aunt and niece grow closer, and we see Kimmings trying to shield Taylor from the scary parts of the world. It’s a chaotic mix of chat, monologues, Q&As, dancing and singing, with Taylor occasionally sent off to put her headphones on so Kimmings can talk to the audience in an uninhibited way. The ideas contained within the show are big and important, but the way they are explored often feels a little rushed or clumsy.

I could not be a bigger fan of the project itself: Catherine Bennett, the imaginary pop star, is a brilliant creation. As a sociological study, the project is fascinating and asks some really important questioned about growing up in the twenty-first century. As a piece of theatre, however, the show doesn’t quite hang together. It’s amusing, certainly, especially the animal dance routine and some of the dialogue between Kimmings and Taylor, but the more reflective moments feel a bit lost in the hectic whirlwind of costume changes and silliness.

Credible Likeable Superstar Rolemodel is at the Pleasance Dome until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.