"Bryony Kimmings is NOT an alcoholic."So begins the blurb on the Soho Theatre website for Kimming's current show 7 Day Drunk. No Bryony Kimmings is not an alcoholic, she is an artist, and her own website tells us that: 'She makes performance, dance, music, spoken word, and video. Her work is haphazard, loud, dangerous, unpredictable... and above all mega-fun!'
Kimmings is one of a number of young artists creating work linked to Britain's (and their own) rocky relationship with booze. 7 Day Drunk is part social experiment and part personal history. Through anecdote, song, dance, film and fantastical costumes Kimmings examines whether alcohol does make us more creative, and if so at what cost.
WORDS: SUSIE WILD
Your fab show 7 Day Drunk was a 4 star hit at Edinburgh, and is currently touring. Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from the fact I was living with an alcoholic and they were a writer. I was also struggling with booze and creativity myself and I wanted to address the age old idea of the drunk artist and the romantic ethics of that. I also wanted to work with scientists. So we devised the experiment - it was as scientific as art can get. And we did it in a seven day controlled experiment and I made the material for the show that week then turned it into the show for Edinburgh. It was commissioned by Soho Theatre and The Junction and funded by ACE and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. The tour was also ACE funded.
How long did it take to put together and rehearse?
A good few weeks and meetings in planning. One week of being drunk. Three weeks in the studio after.
Did you get any help from anyone?
Yes from my mentor Stacy Makishi; mostly emotional support there. Nina Steiger from Soho Theatre and Kate Madden from Junction helped me with notes and ideas.
What have been the best and worst moments of putting it together and putting it out there?
The drinking was the best and worst. The making a show the worst - total mental block for a lot of the time. Weird how the brain can take over its own logic and freeze you up sometimes. Doing the gig and dancing with everyone at the end is the best feeling ever!
How did you go about booking your tour?
My tour booker booked the show. We booked it as soon as we were back from Edinburgh, and the tour was finalised by just before Christmas. It wasn't a hard sell as it had done well in Edinburgh and Soho backed it. People ask for the tour pack sometimes but mostly we send it to them and they then get in contact to book. We call them if we haven't heard, but we ain't too pushy!
What first attracted you to performance art, and who/what is keeping you interested in it today?
I studied it and loved Forced Entertainment, Wooster Group and the more theatrical companies we were looking at. I started making work with friends and became a company with them then I went into more clubby trash work and then I got a commission to make a solo and this all began. I love Scottee, Eat Your Heart Out, Owen Parry, Ryan Styles, Richard Dedomenici, Dan Canham, Made in China, Taylor Mac, Jonny Woo, Amy Lame, Dickie Beau and loads of comedians like Dr Brown and Neil Hamburger. I am not really into Theatre.
I heard that you hate camping, how are you going to cope with all your festivals this summer?
Haaaaaa. I hope to just get a nice tent with lots of room and make it comfy. Going for an air bed this summer, a self-inflating one. Costumes are always stored in lock ups backstage as otherwise they get nicked! Luckily you get better toilets and things if you are an artist and cheap food. Ear plugs. I always need ear plugs. I really want an airstream but can't afford it this year!
For your performance workshop you asked people to bring a packed lunch and water – not vodka cranberry as some might have expected. If alcohol isn't the creative spark, how do you get those participating, and indeed yourself to begin to spark new ideas for a show and then run with them to make longer pieces?
I give myself time and I am nice to myself. A retreat is normally in order to kick start an idea. Sometimes things just hit me or make me need to make work about them... other things need to be dug out. I kind of just feel if something is a cabaret sketch, a song or a full length piece. It's hard to quantify your own brain... so sorry to be mystical!
What tips and pointers do you have for novices like me who want to put together a show to take on the road?
Make something you really like. Be true to yourself about what you are trying to say and why people might be interested in that. Lots of people get websites, gigs and business cards before they really know what they have to say. Hone your craft first. Show ideas to people see if what you think the work is doing is happening in your audience.
From the Total Theatre award-winning creator of Sex Idiot comes a hilarious, riotous and moving one woman show investigating the historical links between artists and mind enhancing drugs. Bryony's 7 Day Drunk tour is running across the country until the end of May: bryonykimmings.com/tourdates