Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Bryony Kimmings & Tim Grayburn Tackle Love, Depression and Everything in Between
Edinburgh Fringe is known for attracting the brightest and best of talent from across the UK and this year will be no different. In less than two weeks the bright young couple that is Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn will be returning to the Scottish Capital just under a year after they originally debuted their current show “Fake it ‘Til You Make It” as a work in progress.
A show that Tim who at the time had been working 9-5 at a well known media agency, had been secretly developing with his performer girlfriend (now Fiancée) despite his lack of experience in the field. Fast forward 12 months later and their lives have moved on considerably. An engagement, pregnancy announcement and a critically acclaim tour of the show in Australia later, they are ready take on a home crowd at what is considered one of the best Fringe festivals in the world.
The subject matter for the show? Male Depression. More specifically, Tim’s depression. Shining a light on the last great taboo…
Let’s start with an easy one…who wears the trousers?
B: Urgh it’s Tim. I like to think it’s me but he is more sensible, practical and has more time on his hands. So he generally bosses me about.
T: We both have one leg in each. But she is stubborn and annoying so often gets her own way.
So Bryony you’re an old hand at this if you will. What’s it like working with a rookie?
B: Joyful. The last show I made was with my niece who was 9 at a time. I don’t like to write about fictional things. I like to make extraordinary stories happen from the mundanity of the every day. Once in a while stories arrive at your door that you have a duty to tell. Working with Tim feels like that. We get to hang out, I get to laugh at how much he is NOT a performer and find joy in our story every night. Paradise.
Your last show was such a massive success and obviously had you working side by side with your niece, was it hard to leave it behind and say goodbye to it all?
B: I miss her very much. I don’t get to see her that often. She’s nearly a teen, she has braces and glasses now and is so tall! I guess because that show was so much about being on the cusp of growing up, about losing the innocence of childhood, it was always only going to last the two years we had set for it. That being said it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Being a pop star managed by a kid was hilarious and heartbreaking all at once. All of the things that happened along the way were just amazing!! Radio 1, main stage Bestival, the Wright Stuff… Just mental!!
Tim, what was it like for you when you were initially diagnosed as having depression?
T: It wasn’t a very happy time in my life, I had the usual feelings of emotions that come with a post graduate; worry, confusion with how to live in the real world, career decisions etc. I had no idea that it would develop into an actual illness, a diagnosed illness. I had never really heard of depression as a proper illness, I just thought it was for people who moaned and couldn’t hack life. I started to get very ill, physically to, I lost weight, had serious insomnia and it felt like my world was caving into a big black hole and I no control over any of my thoughts. The medication put me back to my former self or 80% of my former self with the secret knowledge that my brain had gone a bit messed up. I just carried on and forgot about it because I thought the pills were doing what they were mean to be doing.
When you met Tim were you aware of his diagnosis or was it something that he revealed to you?
B: It wasn’t so much revealed but it smashed me in the face like a big fist when I found his antidepressants in his backpack 6 months after he had moved into my flat! Total game changer but a moment that ultimately made us the closest I’ve ever been to another living loving being. I think if we are honest the diagnosis is something that keeps unfurling, changing and alluding us sometimes. Because chronic depression can often be lifelong it’s often different at different times.
Had you had experience of depression before you found out about Tim’s mental health?
B: My mum has had a couple of depressive episodes so I know what it is and by proxy I guess how it feels and what it looks like. It’s a physical illness as much as a mental one. Sunken eyes, weight loss, lethargy, you can see it in people. I’ve had close friends on antidepressants through my life. Mental health affects us all. We all know someone.
How did the tour come about?
T: Bryony went away to Australia to tour a previous show and it happened to coincide with me coming off my medication completely after 6 months of intensive regulation of mood and diet and exercise and everything we were told to do if we were going to ween myself of these tablets. I crashed and had a breakdown and got very ill while she was away and it scared us both because I had started to get suicidal thoughts again. We didn’t enjoy the time away from each other anyway so we joked that we’d have to make the next one together. We through a few crap ideas around and then a light bulb moment came along. Depression, lets make a show about depression.
B: I then set about making a safe space for Tim to experiment with me without him having to give up his job immediately and dive in. We larked about on weekends, me trying to teach him to dance and write with me. Then we did a trial gig and he started to get into it! It’s was weird for me as I had to get all the funding and gigs for a year without having an actual show! Luckily because people loved that last show AND because it was such a brilliant subject (men and depression) people went for it and trusted us!
When you announced that you had suffered from depression since you were 23 and that you were both going to do a show exploring the themes around it. There were people that just knew you as a fun loving, happy go-lucky character. So what was the reaction like from people who had no idea about your depression?
T: My mates all said “I thought you were the one who had it all together more than any of us” They couldn’t quite get there head around it at first but they were all sound. They didn’t do the thing that i was worried about, like be over sympathetic and be all sensitive around me. They were sad because I had gone through this dark period but they knew me and knew that just because someone has depression doesn’t mean they are going to be some miserable arsehole. Just the same old me with an illness like any other.
Depression as a theme for a performance, doesn’t seem like the easiest place to begin. How did you start the process?
T: We initially said we wanted to do a stand up about it, then realised we weren’t that funny. We sat down and discussed what we wanted and what we definitely didn’t want. We wanted humour and we definitely didn’t want some real dark over dramatised piece of art about the woes of depression. We wanted people to understand a bit more about it and show people that it can happen to any of us.
B: I usually get my non-performer collaborators to give me the parameters they feel comfortable in and Tim gave me rules. He didn’t want to look anyone in the eye, he wanted to appear like a man’s man and he wanted to learn guitar. So I stuck to that… And as he got more comfortable began to fuck with it which creates great tension.
Is the show very much scripted or is there still freedom to go off-piste if the moment seem right?
T: We have the recordings of when we first sat down and started to talk about my history for the very first time, this gives the show some form of structure and works with the script to explain the story. Other than that there are some moments when if it feels right we say what we want and that’s important because it gives the show some realness and rawness.
B: It’s mostly script but we ad lib and the show evolves naturally every night.
Having won a shed load of awards in Australia, are you still worried about the reaction that the show will get as you continue the tour in the UK?
T: Yeah of course. We were both a little nervous as this was the first time our friends and family were seeing it and we obviously hoped for it to get the same reaction as it did with the Australians. Turns out it was the same, if not better. Next test is Edinburgh and it’s a big part of the tour so we hope it goes down well, we’ll see.
B: I’m shitting it
How does life on the road differ as a couple?
T: We spend every minute of every day together which is what we wanted. We’re extremely lucky to do that as not many people do. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we roll over in the morning and are like “oh not you again”
B: It’s stressful and often you yearn for a couple of weeks of 9-5 and no gigs etc. but it’s a once in a life time things so we have to keep our stamina up and our stress levels down. Sometimes we go mad at each other! It’s normally when we are tired!
Having been on a fair few tours with your shows, which acts would you say bought the most joy into your life?
B: Oh god definitely Christeene! Dr brown, Adrienne Truscott, Zoe Coombes Marr, Briefs – on down Southbank at the moment, Foot patrol (a band who only sing songs about feet). Oh so many great acts I get to meet, it’s such a fun job!
How different has it been for you being a performing artist for the last year or so versus working in advertising?
T: Completely different, no more 9-5 but no more weekends. It’s been amazing but it’s also been hard coming into an industry where I’m not known and sitting in the shadow of Bryony feeling a bit lost at times as to what I can do to help. There are parts of both industries that trump one another and I’m lucky to have had a taste of both.
You’ve both revealed the incredible news that you are expecting a little one in the near future. How do you think that’s going to change you?
T: It’s already changing us, we’ve decided to move out into the country and look forward to a family life. On the other hand we still have some partying steam in us so it’ll just a be a case of a babysitting roster when we want to come back on the 40 minute train into town.
B: Oh man it will change my life beyond belief I just know it. I tour a lot, write a lot and work every hour God sends on my career… It’s time to calm down, change gear and spend some time on a new beautiful project. I have some big projects coming up but spread out and with childcare included so my little man can join me. I just know Tim would love to be a huge part of his growing up so I am desperately trying to become a famous writer so he can stay at home!!!
If you were to name you baby using only monikers used by rappers, what would be his full name?
T: The Notorious Freckle
B: Slick Pickle
You were very vocal ahead of the most recent elections on social media about your desire for people to use their vote and were not afraid to show your leanings to the left. How did the Tory victory leave you feeling?
T: We were upset and disappointed. We both felt there wasn’t really a party out there that has all the assets we feel this country needs. Especially some integrity and compassion to the people as a whole. I wanted a weird, Green, Labour, Liberal and mysterious dark haired new party with balls to have a love child and that one stand for power. So there was a bit of not really being convinced by anyone but knowing that I don’t want the conservatives to win for reasons that would take forever to list. I think the whole debacle of the last election highlighted one big problem and that is that there has to be a voting reform. The old system just doesn’t work, people who live in a certain area should have their vote. Why should their idea of who they want to run the country not count just because a constituency is predominately one party? That just isn’t real democracy is it? Unless I’m missing something, it’s all a load of bollocks at the minute and it feels like young people in particular are being discouraged to really vote for how we want to live.
B: I literally cried and it took me a few days to get head round it. I just kept thinking about all the kids eating from Food banks and all of the cushy Tories not noticing austerity. Big up Jeremy Corbyn we need a staunch lefty labour leader with some ideas and political integrity that considers people over profit. I work with young lads from council estates a lot at the moment for a big project in 2017… I want to be able to show them the brilliant options for their vote next time around… Most of them didn’t vote which is just so sad!!
Do you think people are starting to get it a bit more when it comes to mental health?
T: Slowly. Even with physical health we’re all a bit more clued up and look after ourselves a bit more. Cancer wasn’t even spoken about in local pubs back in the 60’s because it was a taboo. Hopefully mental illnesses are going the same way. From doing this show it’s plain for us to see that it really is as common as cancer and it’s a silly old secret that is killing people for the simple reason of not talking about it.
B: I think there have been some great profile raising campaigns and incidents recently that have helped no end. CALM are excellent at PR; the Clarke Carlisle suicide attempt story was very raw and filled the front page of The Sun and robin Williams dying just made people stop and think. The world health organisation have declared a global crisis of depression… Yet just this year the Tories have cut 35 million in mental health services for young people… It still doesn’t add up in terms of funding to match awareness!
If you were to be made prime minister, what would you do to help with male mental health?
T: Put FITYMI on the curriculum! Running the country is something that I would fail at. However, I would certainly try and make the effort to extend the mental health budget. The budget has always been minimal in comparison to the physical budget but they are slashing it again. £85m has been cut in the last 5 years but suicide rates are increasing. Simple math ain’t it really?
B: I’d get mental wellbeing on the curriculum too. I would dig and dig until I found the premier league footballers and musicians who could team up together for a charity single and I would force a depression story into EastEnders!!
What was the last feeling that you faked?
T: Orgasm (laughs)
B: No I think being a pregnant woman I have to try and cover over truly mental thoughts! Pretend to be happy when you just want to puke. But the most distinct was hiding joy when we found out we were expecting and couldn’t tell anyone!