Tag Archives: Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model @ Bristol Old Vic (Studio)

The basic message of this post is going to be go see this show if you can! This was one of the stand out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe that I unfortunately never got to see. Luckily the show came to Bristol from the 20th-22nd of February so I jumped at the chance to go!

Bryony Kimmings, along with her 9 year old niece Taylor, have created a truly incredible performance of discovery that looks at how young ‘tweens’, particularly girls, are targeted by the media. Having spent time with her niece over the last year, Kimmings was able to look at the world through a nine year-old’s eyes, and see what a truly terrifying prospect it presents for their future. Uncontrolled access to a virtual world where violent and sexual images are more than easy to find for their curious minds; targeted marketing telling girls that they have to be famous, attractive and sexual to be valued in the world; what the curious and sponge-like mind of a 9 year old actually perceives – all this was explored within the space of an hour through song, dance, monologue, and stories.

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What really got to me about this performance, and genuinely made me well up, was the sadness and desperation that you feel from Kimmings – she is trying to fight against a world that is not obviously going to change. Although I have always and will always advocate a feminism that allows a woman to dress and act however they want as long as it is their choice (and doesn’t hurt anyone, but that is a general life rule I feel), Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model really made me question this. The popstars that young girls look up to – Jessie J, Katy Perry, Beyoncé – almost exclusively wear tight, short, or revealing outfits and dance sexually. While this is their absolute right – women should be able to be as sexual as they choose – the way this comes across to a young and malleable mind is that the only way to be famous and successful (and as Kimmings relays in a monologue, the two are now equated more than ever in the minds of tweens) is to act in this way. The element of choice is taken out of the equation.

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I happened to be looking at dance videos on YouTube the day after seeing the performance, and stumbled across a National Dance Competition in America. What I saw really quite disturbed me – girls as young as 8 in tiny hotpants and tight crop tops gyrating, grinding on the floor and displaying their crotches to the audience and judges in a supposed ‘Jazz’ routine. If they were above the age of 16 I probably wouldn’t have a problem with any of these dance moves. But they were young children who really did not need to be dancing like that in order to win a competition. While they were fantastic at the technical jazz dance moves, these added extras seemed totally inappropriate, and born of a culture where younger and younger children are taught to act in a disturbingly sexual way. Kimmings touches on this idea – when Taylor shows us the dance she learnt to a Katy Perry song, Kimmings does the actual routine behind her, showing just how sexualised Taylor’s idols are. Similarly, the show opens and closes with a dance to Jessie J’s song Domino. At the beginning Kimmings dances along with Taylor, happy to be joining in with something that her niece loves. But at the end, after this journey of discovery, Kimmings looks on upset, as she sees how Taylor is moving and singing along to a song that is far too grown up for her young mind.

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This idea that children and tweens (a term I really dislike) need a role model that doesn’t exclusively talk about sex, fame and money lead to the creation of Catherine Bennett – a palaeontologist/ popstar who sings about the things she cares about: friendship, polar bear, the future, her neighbourhood. She is managed by 9 year old Taylor, who helps her come up with song and video ideas. She works in a museum when she isn’t singing, she likes to read and hang out with her dog Cookie, and she likes to be silly so that others know it is ok. Towards the end of Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, Catherine is introduced to the audience, and we all join in with the actions to Animal Kingdom – this is a really fun element to the show that really showcases how great the Catherine Bennett project is. As Catherine sings Taylor to sleep, Kimmings comes out of character and speaks to us frankly, all while Taylor has her ears covered by noise cancelling headphones (which are used in the more adult sections of the performance). She laments how Taylor is already growing out of Catherine Bennett, and will soon have to face the real world, away from the magical glen they have created together. Kimmings talks about what she might pack into Taylor’s backpack so she can face this journey: feminist awareness, creativity, faith in herself. While we would expect all parents to want to give their children these tools, Kimmings reminds us that it cannot just be up to those who have produced children to take on this responsibility. We must all play a part in creating a better, safer, more equal world to which the younger generations can bring a fresh outlook, and maybe a new hope for the future.

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model is beautiful, powerful, funny, tear-inducing and possibly the most thought provoking performance piece I have seen in the last 5 years.

Go see it if you can.

If not please support the Catherine Bennett project, and get Taylor the 1 million YouTube hits she deserves!

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https://www.facebook.com/socatherinebennett

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Edinburgh #3

The last two weeks in Edinburgh were very busy, and I’m pleased to say I kept to my promise of seeing a lot more shows! I also unfortunately succumbed to the inevitable, and got Fringe flu, but now I am back home and recovering. I have seen a really great mix of shows, so lets get on with the list:

McNeil & Pamphilon Go 8-bit – this was one of our shows that I was very excited to see. Essentially it consisted of a group of comedians playing old video games, drinking and doing forfeit challenges. Despite the fact that I am too young to remember any of the games played (the original Mario Kart, Streetfighter and Bomberman) I got really into the show, shouting and chanting with everyone else.

Ben Moor: Each of us – this is probably my favourite show of the fringe. Ben Moor is billed as a comedian, but the show is more performance storytelling than anything else. All I can really say is that Moor delivers a truly beautiful show, and I am exceedingly glad that he was selling a book of it, because there were so many lines I had wanted to note down.

John Kearns (winner of best newcomer) – I was taken to see Kearns straight after seeing Ben Moor and the contrast was staggering. Equally brilliant, Kearns’ show was a strange mixture of character comedy, stand up and general weirdness – all of which he acknowledges through the show. Even though I didn’t really understand what I had seen, I knew I loved it!

The Wrestling II – The Wrestling is a one off show where comedians and professional wrestlers actually wrestle each other. It is a weird and wonderful combination that makes for a very high intensity night if screaming and laughing.

Johnny & the Baptists – A very good musical comedy show with plenty of talent and laughs! They are also very lovely guys, which always helps.

Cariad & Paul – This improv duo (one of ours) are absolutely fantastic at what they do. Taking one word from the audience as a prompt to get the creative juices flowing, they invent a show based around the development of a few scenes over an hour. Not only does this in itself just blow my mind, but the actual scenes were also really entertaining and different enough that it didn’t ever feel like they were falling back on stock material.

Men – This play was done by TapTap Theatre which is a Bristol based theatre company. The acting and story were all very good, but I found the play in general overly sweary. It very much felt that the writer had equated anger and intensity with swear word, which I often find lessens their effect. However considering the playwright was 20 when she wrote Men I can understand this slightly immature approach to realism.

Bristol Revunions: Elegant Nymphs – One of my very good friends is in the Bristol sketch comedy group, and I was really happy to be able to see him perform! I really liked the show in general, although I think the framing device of having it be Nymphs trying to break out of their stereotype was a bit misused.

Tim Key: Work in Progress – I only saw Tim Key because I had some time to kill while my friend finished her shift, and he wasn’t sold out. I am very glad I did! The show was a mixture of stand up, weird poetry and general bizarreness (including a woman periodically appearing from a mattress on stage and dancing). It was a great show, and I would love to see the finished product.

Bo Burnham: What – I thought Bo Burnham was genius, and he is definitely in the running for my favourite show! His songs are extremely clever, his poems hilarious and his sarcastic and cynical personality really works with my sense of humour.

Take it Interns – this was a musical brought up by a student run production company (1945 productions) from Bristol. Overall I thought it was really good – the story line, following a group of badly chosen interns at an advertising company, was silly and clever at the same time. For the most part the musical performances were solid, although a few of the actors were clearly not natural singers, and some of the harmonies were not to my taste.

Peacock & Gamble: Heart-Throbs – I don’t think this comedy duo are really my thing. Although I generally enjoyed the show, their odd brand of sketch/ double act comedy didn’t really appeal to me on the night. It was really funny though to see them make each other corpse, a part of comedy shows that I often enjoy the most!

Set List (With Paul Foot, Adam Bloom, Ahir Shah, Matt Okine & others) – I really liked the concept of Set List – comedians are given random items from their imaginary set lists and have to perform stand-up about it. The only problem is that stand-up comedians aren’t known for their improv skills, so you get a very mixed bag of success. Luckily on my night a couple people really rose to the challenge, in particular Ahir Shah and Paul Foot.

Beardyman: One Album Per Hour – Pretty much all I have to say about Beardyman is WOW. Not only is he an incredible beat-boxer, singer, rapper, producer and general lovely guy – he can genuinely create a completely improvised album in an hour. It blew my mind.

Fullmooners (Paulmooners) – This was a charity gig for Paul Byrne, Ed Byrne’s brother who was very sadly diagnosed with cancer on the 2nd day of the Fringe. The Fullmooners concept was created by Paul with Andrew Maxwell and so they put a benefit gig together in just 2 weeks. It was a fantastical funny and emotional gig, with many of the comedians giving little speeches at the end of their sets about Paul.

Comedy Countdown – this show is effectively a low budget Countdown with comedians. Paper and a clipboard are used instead of letter cards, and the clock is in fact David Morgan. It was a really fun set up, and yet again, I got far too into the spirit of the game.

Ben Van der Velde: Chain Letter – My final Edinburgh show was that of my now good friend Ben. Part stand-up, part storytelling, Chain Letter is the story of his attempt to reinvent the hand written letter. It was a funny and heartwarming show that left me very happy. A perfect way to end the Fringe!

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