Straight up, what I know about performance art can fit on the back of a stamp. That Yoko Ono’s nice. That’s about it. Obviously, this mightn’t produce the most enlightened review there ever was. Or, I could trust my judgement and say I’d just been made to sit through something truly beyond parody. Not sure.
Reminiscent of ‘kooky’ London singer Kate Nash gone a mix of Bronte-style doo-lally in a fetish club, her show Sex Idiot took the audience to places that surely, please gawd, they had never been before. Part of the Liverpool Comedy Festival, it was based on Kimmings’ own journey of discovery after finding out she had caught chlamydia from a former lover. But which one? Retracing her steps and assessing her relationships was the name of the game.
This sounded like a great idea for a smart stand up show, but I should have known that wasn’t what we were in for. The clues were all there. Earlier in the day, on Twitter, the call had gone out for a vaginal speculum, because “Bryony’s forgotten hers!”. Five minutes into the show, when she started throwing around words like “vignettes” and “expressive dance”, it was already too late. I knew this show wasn’t for me, and I couldn’t get out. I felt like a sitcom character who would get stuck in this kind of ridiculous situation. What would Larry David do?
This is not to say Bryony Kimmings is not a captivating performer. She is beautiful and vibrant, and her boldness and honesty are virtues. Her freedom and lack of boundaries are inspiring. Her sense of design, the ‘set’ comprising vintage suitcases decorated with pretty trees and flowers, was lovely. She even snuck in a few safe sex messages among the general subversion, even if that did mean inflating a condom over her head. The audience loved her – a few even obliged her extremely unusual requests. But really: WTF?
After setting out her stall, she told the stories of the men in her life through poems, dances, cabaret and songs, that remained more odd than funny. She beat herself over the head with flowers (to represent the “headfuck” of an ex), yelled ridiculous things about the tedium of sex like “tampon out, misery in!”, and had a bonkers song comprising nothing but slang words for vagina that kept going much longer than you’d expect. But if you hadn’t been drawn into it from the beginning, if it didn’t work for you straight away, it was just not going to gel. Perhaps it needed some investment this reviewer wasn’t prepared to give it. Or maybe it was just a load of old attention-seeking toss.
Performance art is generally relaid to the masses through parody (David Walliams’ character of Vulva on Spaced, or the IT Crowd gang going to Gay! A Gay Musical). Where one starts and the other begins, it’s hard for the layperson to gauge. Was Sex Idiot a set up to that end, in some respect? Perhaps it’s like not really getting what was so great about the The Beatles as a youngster, until you realise they invented everything in pop, ever. So yes, putting up the house lights to pass around scissors and cups and say you want ‘pubes’ was a bit surprising; actually getting a few people to provide them, even more so; then taping them to your face to make a moustache while you sing a song about the love of your life? Check, please.
Note: Bryony has contacted me to point out there was a sheet available at this show explaining a bit more of the context of this act. This, obviously, might have helped answer some of the questions it raised. I saw some of the audience had them them but couldn’t see any spares. This constitutes a reviewer fail that, particularly if the sheet was in itself a part of the show, could be perceived as quite unfair on the artist, so I apologise to Bryony for that. If anyone would like to fill in the gaps, comments are welcome below. (May 8)