Bryony’s show has a lotta, lotta bottle...
THEY say you have to suffer for your art.
In the case of Bryony Kimmings the suffering entailed her getting drunk during her working day and then presenting an audience with what she had come up with.
While that might well have been a recipe for both health and career disaster, the Cambridgeshire-based performer has earned critical acclaim for the show born of her experiment.
7 Day Drunk arrives at Sheffield’s Lantern Theatre tonight (Friday April 20) with Bryony keen to stress she is neither an alcoholic or in the habit of performing inebriated.
But the show’s mix of song, dance, humour and sobering reality could send a message to those who find their lives coloured by drink.
“It’s a performance piece so I guess it’s somewhere between lecture, cabaret and play,” says the artist, who previously found success with Sex Idiot.
“The idea came from two things; having got back from Edinburgh having had a really good year and lots of people demanding to know what I was going to do next – and me having writer’s block.
“I found myself going out a lot and drinking in my studio, following that generic artist path. I was living in East London which is the worst place for people saying they’re artists and not really making any art.
“At the same time I had a new housemate and she ended up being an alcoholic. She was a writer and believed that her alcohol addiction had something to do with her success as a writer.”
Like many of us, Bryony held a fascination with the subject and its effects on lives, be that friends or Amy Winehouse. So she decided to investigate, pursuing an experiment that ultimately boiled down to her show.
“I wanted to prove or disprove our theory about alcohol and its intrinsic links to the arts and how that’s socially acceptable.
“So I found some scientists. They devised an experiment so day one I was sober and then up to 0.12 on the blood alcohol scale by day seven.
“They put me in that state in the morning and I was kept in that state 10am to 6pm. I would spend time doing what I normally do, writing songs, making cabaret acts, dances, writing text.
“At six every day an audience would come and watch and tell us what level of creativity they were seeing and at the end of the week that was assessed. The rule was, whatever I made during that week of drinking was the only material I could use to make the show.”
Of course, as anyone who has witnessed anyone else drunk will confirm, as the booze intake increased so Bryony’s behaviour, mood and creativity fluctuated, all carefully monitored.
“I had to drink and eat the same thing every day. About 9.30 they would give me the measure of alcohol that would get me straight away to the state they needed me. On day seven to get me to 0.12 they’d give 10 shots of vodka.
“They’d keep breathalysing me and every time I dropped a bit they’d give me a little vodka to keep me up there.
“But I was driven to make something because I had the pressure of an audience coming. I knew I would have to show them something. And on the first few days I was really happy and working very quickly; I had lists of things I wanted to try.
“By day four, five, six and seven we’re talking quite a lot of crying. Day five was that horrible drunk where you’re ‘everybody hates me’. Six and seven were much more rational, but I couldn’t really move around, dance, hold a pen, so you face different obstacles.
“Mostly I had to keep my head down and just do things to the best of my ability, working within the means I had. On the last day I could only sit at my keyboard.”
CALL The Lantern Theatre for tickets on 0114 255 1776