An investigative journalist with a smeared mascara, Bryony Kimmings’ teary new persona has been conducting door to door inquiries about how to get over a broken heart. The answers she gathers from the Shepherd’s Bush shops and streets surrounding the theatre are a mixture of the trite, nihilistic and the devastatingly sad, and each is repaid with one of over a hundred snippets of all-in, hilarious performative embodiement or mockery.
This is an ongoing project, gathered into the loosest possible structure by Kimmings’ changing moods and clothes – the ‘angry’ ones are shunted into a ragey, bottle-smashing middle section, furious contrasts to the Bridget Jones cliches that open the show, acted out in soggy pyjamas. What emerges is how universal the voices are – although some responses come with a snippet of personal history, told in Kimmings’ voice they largely speak in an ageless, cultureless voice of popular wisdom – drink, eat, dance, wallow, rage, accept. She obeys every command, but with her own commentary coming out through anything from a sceptical look to an extended, farcical riff on a theme – from a reluctant few seconds pondering that she shouldn’t love so much next time, to trying to float over her problems by sagging balloons to her shoulders, or ‘manning up’ in a surreal Zorro costume. Her performances are fluid, expansive and incredibly physical, snapping seamlessly from scenario to scenario by way of the odd showstopper – an ecstatic ‘All By Myself’ is Bridget Jones on poppers.
Kimmings is careless with herself, doodling and scrubbing at her skin, inhaling biscuits, spouting water like a fountain cherub or being physically crushed by the audience. But she’s careful about how the audience get involved, and about how she navigates the show’s huge field of references, interlocking performance with participation with props with a constant stream of pop. This music is absolutely central, giving the feeling of being in a teenage bedroom, cuing up a laptop soundtrack of heartbreak, Chaka Khan in middle-of-the-dresser pride of place. As each surveyed snippet slots neatly into a pop song line an endless feedback loop between heartache and manufactured sentiment, each feeding off the other, builds to create a distinct, stifling space, stored up in the memory of harddrive to be accessed as needed.
This play is a stack of individual coping mechanisms harvested and smashed together into one big malfunctioning machinery of misery – there’s plenty that’s dark, masturbatory and messy about its unravelling-tape edges. Still, this chaos is shot through with a constant, completely hilarious sense of self-awareness and euphoric reclamation. When a stranger tells her to jump, she jumps around in a joyful 90s fanfare – it’s impossible to stay unmoved.