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Bryony Kimmings speaks to and for performers with Fringe Central address

By | Published on Sunday 9 August 2015

Bryony Kimmings

ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award winner and all-round Fringe star Bryony Kimmings delivered the official welcome address to performers at Fringe Central on Friday, the third such person to deliver this now annual speech designed to formally get Fringe proceedings going.

And, she noted, just her own experiences in the previous 24 hours demonstrated that it was well and truly Edinburgh Fringe time once more. “My name is Bryony Kimmings” she declared. “I am a slightly pregnant, loud mouth feminist performance artist slash comedian slash theatre maker from London. I think that just about covers it. Even I’m not sure what box to put myself in nowadays. Having previewed yesterday and spent the rest of the evening eating ice cream and crying about the dodgy mics I bought off eBay, and the distinct lack of funniness to my jokes about depression, I can tell you that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has officially begun”.

Describing the love hate relationship pretty much all performers have with the world’s biggest arts festival, Kimmings mused of the Fringe: “It is a beast and it is rare to tame it, and in some ways you have to ride it for three and half weeks, being careful not to fall off or crack your head open or drown in its drool, and then jump off it and then ask the question ‘what just happened’. So I have had fun trying to remember my favourite festival moment and my worst to share with you today”.

Starting with a favourite moment, she went on: “My first ever proper Edinburgh with my first full length solo show ‘Sex Idiot’ was 2010. I was in the wonderful Zoo venues. I can’t ever thank them enough for taking me on, I must have sounded like a nutter on the phone to James with my risk assessment of scissors and bourbon and other flammable goods. My venue was 30 seats in what used to be Zoo Roxy. In the basement. We had six lights and some playback. I think now it is a store room. I tried to get in there last year to peak and the whole stairwell was covered in boxes and cobwebs which made my heartache a bit”.

“It was tiny” she continued. “Two rows, three sides, 50 minutes of me screaming at you about ex-boyfriends and demanding your pubes from you at the end… everything about that should have spelt out disaster. But for whatever reason: stars aligning, trends being set by other like-minded artists, a new found penchant for brash female comics … that show was a hit. Out of nowhere. Good reviews from big papers, lots of invites to do slots, a gig at Soho Theatre before I left the Festival and a Total Theatre Award right at the end. I remember that summer as bouquets from a fan, skipping from party to party, laughing hard with my producer and best friends, being out our minds with excitement. I picture sunshine and taxis and prosecco”.

“Flash forward a year” she went on, switching to the worst Fringe moment. “I find myself standing in the rain outside a flat just that little bit too far from the centre of town. I have an unfinished script in my bag, a very worried tech beside me and a completely different feeling in my gut. The show was ‘7 Day Drunk’. My difficult second album”.

She expanded: “I had spent July slogging my guts out at Jacksons Lane studio space trying to wrestle any kind of show out of a bunch of terrible material made during a madcap scheme to spend a week with some scientists getting progressively more drunk to prove to a friend that alcohol had no effect on creativity”.

“That year no awards, two to three star reviews, audible whispers of ‘yeah she made ‘Sex Idiot’ but…’ I picture hangovers, leaky shoes, bad ecstasy tablets, a throat infection and the worst feeling of not understanding how to make art, or what an audience wanted, as I buried my head in the sand and spent hours on the phone to my mum”.

The message of these two opposite Fringe experiences just one year apart? “Those two polar extremes sum up how this Festival can go for all of us. And help us keep our feet on the ground as we begin our journeys this year. It could be great, it could be a disaster… and the truth is you have no idea at this stage which it will end up being”.

“I think that might be part of this Festival’s constant seduction for artists… the whiff of a hit. And I think that we have the best jobs in the world and are so lucky to be here. But believe me, we’ve all played to two people, we’ve all hit bums notes when the man from Public Reviews has his notebook out in the front row, and we’ve all cried as soon as we’ve stepped off stage.

Addressing the participants in the room, she concluded: “I hope that for you, this year is more like my ‘Sex Idiot’ experience than my ‘7 Day Drunk’, but if it’s not… know that next year is another year and tomorrow we are all fish and chip shop paper”.

Kimmings wide-ranging speech also contained plenty of advice for performers, from herself and others, on creativity, the creative business, and the tricky business of dealing with the pesky press. And in amongst all that, there was a five point plan: “Eat healthily. Get out of the city on your day off. Use the facilities and services of the Fringe Society. Don’t sweat the bad stuff. And make lots of friends”.

Fine words from a fine performer, who is hopefully now in the midsts of creating another fine Fringe memory performing ’Fake It Til You Make It’ at the Traverse.

Photo by Jane Barlow