Fake It Til You Make It | Latitude review by Steve Bennett

Fake It Til You Make It

Latitude review by Steve Bennett

Tim Grayburn decided to make this show last summer, when Robin Williams died. It wasn’t an obvious move for him, given that he was an advertising buyer with no stage aspirations.

But he was going out with comedian-cum-performance-artist Bryony Kimmings, who has a long and fearless tradition of putting her life on the stage, from tracing an STI she contracted back to its source to spending seven days pissed.

And with Grayburn there’s an important story to be told, which is where Robin Williams comes in, because he is a chronic depressive with acute anxiety – a condition which came as news to Kimmings when she accidentally came across his medication.

He never told anyone about it, believing that ‘real men’ don’t talk about their emotions, and admitting to a mental illness would be a sign of weakness. As this extraordinary show proves, quite the opposite is true.

Grayburn and Kimmings, who is heavily pregnant, put both themselves and the audience, through the emotional wringer for this exploration of still-raw feelings, given added poignancy with the use of genuine tapes from when they discussed the issue with each other in their apartment. But it for good reason, to chip away at the stigma surrounding depression and offer support to others in the same boat.

They talk candidly and tenderly about the symptoms, the side-effects of the antidepressants and the challenges it posed to their relationship, which has proved more than resilient in response,. For this, as Kimmings says at the start, is essentially a love story: an unconventional one, but a strong one.

And for all the heightened emotion and the darkness of Grayburn’s blackest days, their story is told with a generous side-serving of mordant wit. While it’s in Latitude’s theatre today, and is listed the same section of the Edinburgh Fringe programme next month, it also played the Melbourne International Comedy Festival earlier in the year and won plaudits on those terms.

Comically bad dancing illustrates moments in their story, and there are plenty of quirkily amusing asides, such as Grayburn’s hesitant attempts at guitar playing and the lengths he goes to not to look the audience in the eye; allegedly out of shyness but surely an allegory for him not acknowledging his condition too. But sometimes there’s nothing funny to be said, and the electrical brainstorm of a full-on breakdown is demonstrated with powerful physical theatre.

At the end of the formidable hour, the strength of this couple’s love shines through, as well as the scale of the problem Grayburn must live with. In other ways the story is unresolved, but that’s clinical depression for you; no easy answers, no closure.

Grayburn and Kimmings have a remarkable story. Even if the statistics they set to cheery music proves that it’s not numerically exceptional for a couple to live with depression, telling it in such a compelling way that mixes strength, vulnerability, romance and intelligence shows a rare talent. Advertising buying’s loss is the performing arts’ gain.

Review date: 19 Jul 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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