One of the conditions under which Bryony Kimmings’ partner Tim Grayburn—formerly an accounts manager at an advertising agency— agreed to take part in this new autobiographical show about his battle with clinical depression was that he wouldn’t have to make eye contact with the audience. Cue a series of hats, masks and face-obscuring props silly enough to dissipate any initial awkwardness around this difficult subject. But Grayburn’s outlandish headgear serves a serious purpose too: his face obscured, Grayburn is an Everyman figure, his story the story of the millions of young men in this country struggling with mental illness but too ashamed to seek help. Fake It ‘til You Make It is an intensely personal show, but it’s also a resolutely universal one.
Songs about the way we raise our sons to be strong and silent, and dances about the side effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are intercut with poignant recordings of the couple speaking frankly about their experiences of Grayburn’s depression. Not all Kimmings' theatrical gambits are entirely succesful: the dialogue-free dance scenes—too serious for their own good—feel self-indulgent and break the rhythm of an otherwise well-paced show.
Kimmings only found out about her partner’s illness relatively recently, coming across a packet of his antidepressants by chance many years into their relationship. The subject is therefore almost as new to them as it to us, making for a piece of theatre that is still powerfully raw. The title may be Fake It ‘til You Make It, but there’s no faking it here.