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Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model - East End Film Festival 2016

Thursday 16 June 2016, by Ryan Ormonde

London-based performance artist Bryony Kimmings first came to public attention with 7 Day Drunk, a show put together under the influence of alcohol. The subject of new documentary Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model is another ‘real world experiment’ by Kimmings, who is now under the influence of her nine year-old niece, Taylor.

As an idea for a theatre show, this is brilliant: enough with Miley Cyrus! (That’s 2013 twerking Miley Cyrus, not 2015 gender queer activist Miley Cyrus.) Let’s come up with a pop star created by a child and reflecting a child’s particular interests - like palaeontology, outer space and sweets.

Taylor is along for the intergalactic time-travelling ride, making Kimmings a shoe-in for the title of Best Aunty Ever. In the spirit of Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire (sort of), Kimmings gamely dresses up a sexually unthreatening figurehead for ‘tweens’ (pre-teenage children). The sensibly named Catherine Bennett - or ‘C.B.’ - is awkward, intelligent and, helpfully for Kimmings, not that good at singing.

All of this seems progressive, feminist, necessary and entertaining. The questions that arise are more to do with modes of presentation. Is this film a ‘popumentary’ for a fictional singer? A documentation of an art piece? An extended trailer for a theatre show?
At one point in the film we are told that the purpose of the live show at Soho Theatre is to help publicise C.B.’s career. To really affect change, C.B. needs to succeed in the real world. Aunty and niece have even drawn up ‘Fame Aims’ including a million YouTube views.

And yet the glimpses we get of the stage show (described on Kimmings’ website as ‘not for kids’) seem more interesting and complex than the Taylor-narrated story here. A scene in the documentary shows Taylor lying down with eyes closed and headphones on as her aunty tells the live audience things that are not for Taylor’s ears. The stage set looks imaginative and mysterious; the costumes include silver armour in adult and child sizes, emulating warrior queen Boadicea.

In keeping with contemporary cultural (and commercial) modes, Credible… is clearly a multi-platform project. You might encounter C.B. on social media or when she visits your primary school. You can watch her YouTube video, download her music or see her do a gig. And there is this film too, at the very least an inspiring document of the project revealing the emotional impact on its creator, as well as a chance to watch C.B.’s hilarious debut music video in full. The East London Festival is presenting the screening with a Q&A, so it will be interesting to hear if there is still steam in the C.B. engine now that Taylor has progressed from tween to teen.

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model has its world premiere at East London Film Festival on 2 July at the Hackney Picturehouse. See website for details.

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