When Leftwing Idiot was in Edinburgh in the summer he saw a lot of shows at the Fringe Festival. One that really impressed him was Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model. He wasn’t the only person to be captivated by the show and it went on to win three awards.
Last night, Fran, Claire and I headed to the Soho Theatre to check it out. I was blown away, not only by the show, but also by how welcome and comfortable I was made to feel.
Taking my tics to the theatre hasn’t always been a pleasant experience. Mentioning the word Tourettes can make box office staff anxious, and I’ve had some distressing experiences when other audience members have been less than understanding. Because of this I don’t go to the theatre as often as I’d like. Slowly but surely, though, my confidence in going to see live performance is growing, and last night’s experience was overwhelmingly positive.
When Bryony Kimmings started spending more time with Taylor, her nine-year old niece, she became aware of how inadequate the role models on offer to that age group were. Together they set out to create a new one. Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model shares the journey they went on and introduces Catherine Bennett, the dinosaur-discovering, bike-riding pop star Taylor invented. Taylor not only helped Bryony create Catherine Bennett – she’s her manager too.
I got in touch with Bryony and the theatre to let them know I was coming and to explain in advance that I had Tourettes. They listened to what I needed and worked out the best place for me to sit. They also made sure there was a room nearby if I had a ‘ticcing fit’ and reassured me that if anyone complained they’d deal with it and that I had no need to worry. Bryony and Taylor met me before the performance and arranged for an announcement about my tics to be made at the start. Bryony had warned me in advance about a couple of the more shocking bits so that I was prepared for them and my tics wouldn’t overreact. I couldn’t have felt more at ease.
The show is funny, tender, thought-provoking and desperately needed. In places it’s beautifully silly, intensely shocking, and painfully sad. I’m so pleased they made it.
Working with children, I catch occasional glimpses of the music, TV and film stars they’re presented with as role models. I see traces of these influences in their behaviour and relationships with each other. Far too frequently I hear the self-doubt and pressure these unrealistic and over-sexualised idols create. Seeing all this challenged in a creative, child-led way was brilliant.
I can’t wait to tell the children I work with about Bryony and Taylor and to introduce them to Catherine Bennett.
I know how easy it can be to accept damaging ideas when you’re presented with them over and over again. For a long time I felt ashamed to be different and fought to hide my disability. When I realised my tics weren’t a problem but could actually be an amazing superpower it changed my life. I’m confident Bryony and Taylor’s campaign will plant seeds of change in the minds of people who see their show, both children and adults.
Thank you very much, Bryony and Taylor, for creating such an incredible piece. The run at Soho Theatre’s about to end but you can find out about other performances here.
This show and Touretteshero share a key idea: if something’s not working for you, it’s within your power to change it. I hope you’re able to see Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model somewhere soon.