Review: Fake It ‘Til You Make It by Bryony Kimmings

Bryony Kimmings makes work about things that are personal to her, and things that make her angry. In her latest show, that’s male depression. More specifically, why men don’t seek help in dealing with their depression, resulting in a frighteningly high suicide rate amongst that gender. And why is it personal to her? Because, six months into her relationship with her fiancĂ© and father of her unborn son, Tim Grayburn, she found that he had been hiding severe depression from her, and from the world, for ten years.

Typical of Kimmings, instead of screaming ‘betrayal’ and running away, she confronted the situation with her usual sensitivity and understanding, and set to work to do something about it. The result: Tim left his highly-paid job as an advertising executive to collaborate with her in making a show documenting the way in which his depression affected their relationship, learned to play the guitar (not very well, but that’s part of the charm of the piece), and joined her on stage to tour the show around the world for a year.

At the beginning of the show, Kimmings informs the audience that his agreeing to do this was dependent on a promise that he wouldn’t have to look the audience in the eye. Cue a series of headpieces, worn by Tim during the show, which both mask his eyes from the audience, and reflect the state of his mind as the two of them lay bare the stages of his illness and how they, as a couple, dealt with it.

As we have come to expect, the show doesn’t present a tragedy to its audience because, as Kimmings says, ‘that would be depressing’. But behind the entertainment, the song-and-dance routines and the jokes, is a dark side. Real emotions laid bare, as they confront their feelings in a remarkably honest and touching way. Interspersed with the performance are recordings of the conversation that the couple had at the beginning of making the show, in the safe environment of their living room, documenting how they both felt as he began to talk to her about what he had been through.

Both Bryony and Tim are remarkably charismatic individuals, as the wave of empathy emanating from the audience during the one-hour piece affirms. They sing and dance their way through the symptoms of his illness, he plays the guitar, and the story they tell is made all the more poignant by the rather obvious bump that is ever-present, as Bryony tells us that the baby will be a boy, and she doesn’t want him to have to go through what his father went through. Honest, heart-warming and totally unique, the show encourages its audience to share, to tell and, most of all, to recognise depression for what it is: an illness that can afflict anyone, not a weakness that destroys ‘masculinity’.

Already, the couple have received emails and met audience members from around the world who have been empowered by the show to recognise their own depression and, more importantly, to resolve to visit their doctor, or tell their friends. And for the rest of us, it lays bare the problem and lifts the stigma that exacerbates it. Fake It ‘Til You Make It has already toured Australia, and is now on its way to the Edinburgh Festival before embarking on a UK tour next Spring, once Bryony returns from maternity leave. There will be plenty of opportunities to see the show, and I thoroughly recommend that you do so. You will laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll be entertained. But most of all you will understand, and that’s what theatre is all about.

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