Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, March 25, 2014 ****

By Bryony Kimmings
Theatre Works, March 25 until April 6, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 25
Stars: **** 
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed March 26, 2014 and then in print. KH

 Bryony Kimmings & Taylor Houchen

If you are alarmed about your 9 year-old daughter’s choice of role models and the rampant sexualisation of children, do not despair – Catherine Bennett is here.

Just like the title of Bryony Kimmings’ show, Catherine is a Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, but she is a fictional character, created by Kimmings with her 9 year-old niece, Taylor Houchen.

UK performer, Kimmings devised this performance with Taylor in an attempt to determine what makes “tweenies” (7 to 12 year old girls) tick, what preoccupies and fascinates them and who their role models are.

The show flips between deliciously charming and fiercely confronting as we watch the pair dance with joy and abandon to Jessie J, enact fantasy stories, become knights-errant to fight invisible enemies and share secrets about each other with the audience.

Taylor is a bright-eyed, innocent fawn for Kimmings while Taylor sees her aunt as a dinosaur – old with a bad back.

Kimmings in compelling and this production is joyful, self-referential, autobiographical theatre-making at its best, with a touch of feminist politics, a smattering of critical analysis of pop stardom, a huge dollop of comical storytelling and pop culture, and plenty of poignant yearning.

In intimate direct address to the audience, Kimmings reveals that she is hardly a suitable role model for her niece (her other shows are called Sex Idiot and 7 Day Drunk) and that her sister, Taylor’s mother, took some convincing about this shared project.

This piece will make you laugh then cry as Kimmings guides Taylor through the magical landscape of childhood and fantasy into the menacing terrain of the real world, adulthood, the internet and all those perils from which we want to protect our kids.

Kimmings is indignant – as well she should be – about children now putting fame at the top of their list of ambitions when kindness used to be the number one aim for 9 year-olds.

Like her aunt, we feel troubled that Taylor and her friends love Mylie Cyrus, Bratz dolls and play annoying games but, conversely, we are enchanted by Taylor’s soft-eyed naivete and the fact that she also loves frothy, princess dresses.

Both aunt and niece talk intimately to us on microphones, revealing as much about each other as they do about themselves, their dreams, wishes, loves and fears.

But can Catherine Bennett, the likeable, positive role model, save these children from undesirable ambition, or are they doomed to stumble through a world of cultural landmines and unpleasantness?

Just as Kimmings does in the final moments of the show, we must set the children free to live their own lives – one day. Sigh!

By Kate Herbert

Writer and Director: Bryony Kimmings
Music and Co-Director: Tom Parkinson
Lighting Designer: Marty Langthorne
Set and Costume Designer: David Curtis Ring
Cast: Bryony Kimmings and Taylor Houchen


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