Bryony Kimmings: Part One

Bryony Kimmings is one of the UK’s most successful live artists, as well as working as a teacher, a mentor, and a writer of films and musicals. She has made two shows that explicitly address mental health, both of which have been critically acclaimed and influential. 

The first, Fake It Til You Make It (2015), was a show about men’s reluctance to talk about mental health, made in collaboration with Bryony’s then partner, Tim Grayburn, who she discovered was secretly living with clinical depression after she found a hidden box of pills. The show, in which he shares his experiences of depression, was the first time Tim had ever performed on stage.

While Bryony and Tim were performing the show, Bryony became pregnant with their son, Frank. A few months after he was born, Frank became seriously ill and Bryony’s relationship with Tim came to an end, while Bryony herself endured post-natal depression. She would ultimately tell the story of this time – which she describes as the worst year of her life – in her solo show I’m a Phoenix, Bitch (premiered in 2018).

Over two days in November 2023, Bryony spoke frankly and at length to Andrew Eaton-Lewis, arts programme officer for the Mental Health Foundation, about the experience of making both shows, the effect it had on her own mental health, and what she learned from it all.

Part One: Fake It Til You Make It

Bryony, all of your work is autobiographical, rooted in personal experiences. Can you talk about how you came to start making work that way, and how you discovered that was what you were comfortable doing? 

So, not to give such a massive preamble that becomes boring, but I studied performance art at university, it was modern drama but actually I don’t think we ever once looked at a text. The first day was Franko B, you know, it was artists who use their own lives to create art. So there was already within me a fascination with that type of storytelling. I never wanted to be a theatre writer or a playwright, or even a sort of group devisor, it was autonomous artists making work about their own lives that really fascinated me.

When I left university, I had this very strong feeling that I one day would be an artist. But I also had a very strong feeling that I didn’t have much to say yet. Now I think about it, I did, I just didn’t know the language of how to do that. So I spent ten years working in the arts in dance, particularly in curating and programming work, and I was doing lots of club gigs and stuff, silly cabaret. We were always in costumes f***ng around on stages, but it was sort of a future idea that at some point I’ll settle down and be an artist when I have something to say. 

I think part of that is wanting to live, wanting to experience things and have a level of authority to speak of experience. And I think maybe some part of not wanting to do that until I was 30 was that I felt inferior and kind of not good enough. And that’s, you know, my own mental health. But I ended up, when I was 30, meeting and falling in love with an artist. He was in a studio space next door to me and had a daily practice, like visual artists do. They go to their studio, they have a fascination, they work exploring that fascination until they have a gallery show, and then they move on. And I was like, oh, this is so exciting and brilliant, someone who has a daily practice which of course as performers we don’t really have. I was really into how he made work inspired by his own life; it wasn’t autobiographical, but his own fascinations. And it made me be, like, ‘I really want an artist’s life.’ And I did. I was making work in a company and we were disbanding really, and I had the feeling that either I run Sadler’s Wells, which is the biggest job I could think of for dance, or I just try once to make an autobiographical performance art show. 

And so the Junction (Theatre) at the time were championing us. And I just said, can you just give me a little bit of money – it was a time where you could actually f***ing get money – and I’ll just see if there’s anything in me talking about my life on stage and what that might be like. 

I’d just had my very first sexual health test and found out I had chlamydia. And I think I’d watched the film Broken Flowers by Jim Jarmusch. It was Bill Murray going back over his life, trying to sort out his f*** ups. And also this guy I was dating was always like, you have to research and you have to read and you have to absorb a subject. And I was just so fascinated by each of those things. And so I think what happened was I needed a concept. Visual artists are really good at concepts. What’s the concept here? And as soon as I thought that, and applied that to my life, it was like the concept is ‘Who f***ing gave me chlamydia’? And the idea of sitting with a blank piece of paper and writing out the story of my life was never going to be how I was going to do something. It was like I need to go and do something in my life to make the story happen, because I didn’t have loads of stories in my life. 

And so I did stuff. The first few shows (Sex Idiot, Seven Day Drunk) were always ‘I’m going to go do something so that I have the authority to be able to tell you a story about my life.’ Now it’s less like that. I feel like I’m a bit more confident to say, I am the authority on my own life. I have a story to tell. But it was always about doing something extraordinary, so I could talk about what happens when someone looks at their own life as an art project or looks at their own life and deconstructs it. It was never not going to be autobiographical. But it took a while for me to realise I was allowed to talk about myself. 

In recent years this kind of autobiographical work has increasingly addressed mental health in quite an explicit way. How do you feel about that development?

Well, it’s interesting to me. If I think about my back catalogue, each of the shows is about mental health, because mental health is everything. How do I feel? Am I okay? What happened to me? Am I over it? Does it destabilise me? Everything is about mental health if you’re talking about yourself. And I suppose what happened in the mainstream at the same time as this explosion of shows about mental health was that we started talking about mental health. I don’t think it was artists that just made that happen. I think there was a big explosion, many things. If I was making Sex Idiot now, it would be as much a show about female mental health as it was about slut shaming, which was kind of the topical thing of the time.

So actually I think, naturally, when we’ve developed new language for things in a cultural way, it becomes really prevalent, it becomes what everybody wants to talk about, especially with something that had been so forbidden, so hidden, so taboo, so unexplored. I think it was quite profound for individuals. Once you’re allowed to say something, there will always be an explosion of people saying it, because people are like, f*** me, I didn’t know we were allowed to, I didn’t know we were able to. It’s such a revolution inside people’s minds. And I think it will die down because you don’t have to talk about mental health anymore, because everybody already knows it’s so within the fabric of what we’re talking about. But I do think it feels very natural that people would be like ‘I’ve had a mental health problem’ because it’s such a powerful experience to go through, not in a good way but in a destabilising way.

In a way, I feel like artists need to make their mental health show so that they can make another show. They have to get it out of the way so that they can… it’s almost like the shroud over everything until you can articulate it, and then you can move on to make a show about horse whispering, you know what I mean. I think people want to feel important as well, that they are still here still talking, still able to be a person, after the thing that nearly floored them. And they’re proud of themselves for that, you know.

And perhaps this is a bit facetious of me to say since I’ve already made my two mental health shows, so I’m alright thank you very much, but I think, as an artist, I always try to make something that we haven’t yet said or to cut a new path or to be at the front of the Zeitgeist doing the job that the traditional court jester or the traditional artist would do, which is be the future thinker and a kind of trend-setter. Because I don’t want to make another show like somebody else. And that’s why I say maybe I’m being facetious. ‘I want to be different, and I want to be the best and I want to be the first,’ but actually, looking around, I will often think, okay, I have an idea for a show, but it exists and it’s already been well documented and we’ve already talked about this stuff. And yes, it’s really important to me, and I really need to talk about it. But perhaps the question is does an audience need to hear it? No they don’t. I know it was powerful and potent to me, that experience, but perhaps that’s not helpful. And I think that’s a question as to whether or not you’re making a show for yourself, or you’re making a show for other people.

Lets talk about Fake It Til You Make It, your first mental health show. When I first heard you were doing it, I remember thinking two things: 1. that it was an incredibly brave thing to do and 2. that it seemed like a very risky and high stakes thing to do, putting your own love life on stage in such an honest way. Can you talk a bit about how you and your then partner, Tim Grayburn, decided to make a show about his depression?

Yeah. So he was miserable in his job, and it was making him unwell. And when he finally kind of came out about his mental illness, which was so shameful for him, and so scary for him, we started to look at how his life was affecting the symptoms. We were living in London, we were travelling on the bus all the time, and he was just living a life that wasn’t conducive with good mental health.

I had made the show with Taylor (Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, a collaboration with Bryony’s niece Taylor in which they try to create an ideal pop star for children). So I was like, you know, there is a funding body that will give us money to make a show, if you could bear repeating the unveiling of something in front of me. Could you ever do it in front of other people? Have you found that empowering? Have you found it helpful? And it took a while for him to think about it. It wasn’t something I was necessarily gunning for, I just had it as a possibility. And I knew pushing him wasn’t going to be how it would ever happen. I had to wait for him. 

And after a while, he was sort of like ‘I’m kind of into it’. So I used some of the principles that I’d used with Taylor. I’d realised quite early on in that process that there was something really icky about work I’d seen that was a theatre-maker talking about other people’s stories, and sort of co-opting that story and being in control of it, especially with a child. It was really important to empower her all the way through that process. So she managed the pop star, we did everything she asked, she set the parameters for the performance. Everything was inspired by her and she was elevated. I was merely the kind of the person that was skilled to make it into a theatre show. But I wasn’t skilled in what it meant to be a nine year old. And that worked really nicely. It felt like the balance on stage was right, if I took care of the theatre and she took care of the story. So I knew that that had been really helpful. 

So I asked Tim, in the very first instance, just to explain his rules. What won’t you want to talk about? How do you want to appear? I gave him some questions. And straight away he came up with the answers. He didn’t want to show his face to the audience. He wanted to be anonymous. He wanted to be masculine, like Robert Redford in Out of Africa. And he wanted to be able to talk about football at the beginning, or something that was like he could bring his own passion into the project. 

And of course, any kind of rules – which I call extraordinary limits – are brilliant for a creative brain because your brain gets the little maze that it has to go through to find the creative solutions. He felt like he had given the parameters and felt empowered and safe, and I felt inspired. So we came at it like two equals, as opposed to an expert and a novice. And that of course for mental health was really important. I think we were just really careful at every single decision-making stage, with what was and wasn’t okay with our own existence. So for example, Tim would sometimes have massive dips, and there would be days where there was no point – it was like, nope, today’s a duvet day, and you have to just wait this out. That had to be incorporated into any creative rehearsals, any shows. So we made sure that it was really important for him to always have an out if he needed an out, like ‘I don’t want to do this today’, or ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. So there was a constant sort of checking in with mental health in that way. And I think we tried to think of it as a bit like a con, like we’re getting paid to be in each other’s company, because we loved each other so much, and he doesn’t have to work. And we can just f*** around, so we tried to treat it like a mental health holiday really. 

And I think, right from the start, when we first started showing material, what was more rewarding than clapping for him was when people would come up to him afterwards and say, ‘I’m you and she’s you’, or ‘we’re both him’, and I think, just because he found it quite empowering to come out to me, and that I still loved him and was totally on his side, it was the same feeling again – whatever I’m doing is making a positive change happen in other people’s lives. And that led to us giving out flyers at the end and teaming up with CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and having talks and doing interviews. It was always, ‘what is this going to do?’ Not, ‘is this good art, are we getting clapped or five star reviews’ But we were on a quest to kind of just change something that had kept him quiet, you know, kept him shameful.

We also decided early on with the help of a friend of ours, who was a therapist, that it would be really hard for him to keep talking every day about his experience, so we would record it. It was very late in the day that we managed to get him to take off his mask and actually speak, and I always wanted that to happen after he gave us the rule of never speaking and never being seen. I always hoped that through the process of making the show he would de-mask at the end and introduce himself, but it wasn’t my place to say whether he would or not. But it was his idea to take it off. 

So recording his experience and playing it was really important to his mental state. And actually, now I think about it, I wonder if even more we should have put ear defenders on him and kind of just let him sit in a corner when they were playing because he still had to listen to them. But something amazing kind of happened during the process of him performing which was, there was a moment which I think Taylor also experienced, and I always experience in my work, where you are no longer moved by the words, you have to pretend that you’re moved by the words. And I think that, for him, was quite empowering that he moved through ‘this is strange and triggering and odd’ and ‘I’m okay with it but it’s difficult’ to ‘I can’t remember why I was so upset about this. And I’m kind of totally comfortable saying it now.’

And I think that the more we did the show, the more we found that he was getting better, you know, and not in a ‘theatre heals depression’ way, but more desensitised to the experience or at peace with the experience. And the more people saying to him, ‘thank you so much, this is exactly what I needed to hear’ made the whole process of coming out keep getting better for him, until the point that he wrote a book about it. Now I think he’s really, really comfortable talking about it all the time. 

There’s no gold standard or template for what someone needs. I think we could have probably done with someone that changed the dynamic because what invariably happened was it was done in-house and that caused quite a lot of friction, or at least perhaps a power dynamic that I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with, which is like I was kind of a carer and he was kind of the patient, co-dependency in that way. 

And then of course, we got pregnant while we were doing it, so that changed the power dynamic again. So I think if I was going to ever do it again, I would have found someone to look after both of us and ascertain that both of us have mental health because obviously I know I have mental health. At the time I was coming at it from a place of, ‘I’m totally fine. I’ve never had depression. I’m never anxious.’ And of course, now I realise I was just perpetually anxious. We didn’t have couples therapy, that would have been good as well, I think, because obviously subsequently we aren’t together anymore, that’s the crux of it, and I do wonder was it that show that kind of made that happen? We’d only been together a year.

We did travel around the world and he didn’t have to work for three years. Well, he did, he had to work in the show, but we did all these amazing things. And people still contact both of us (about the show). I think we were probably not as protected as we should have been, but that in the process of making it the right things were done so there was never a weird imbalance. It was more that when we started to tour it, I think we hadn’t thought about that into the touring stage. So I think actually we could have done a few more things for our mental health as we were touring, because that power dynamic did shift.

I suppose the problem if youre always trying to do new things and make work in a different way is that, as you say, you don’t necessarily know all the things you’re going to need until afterwards. But at least you can pass on your experience to others. What would you say to people who are thinking about doing a show that involves talking about the mental health of someone close to them?

Well, I always ask my students, is it your story to tell? And that can be cultural appropriation wise, or gender wise, or ‘not your story’ wise. Number one is permission, and right to reply if they’re not in it. And I think it’s really important to ask the question, why? Why are you telling this story? Has someone else had a fascinating experience that you want to co-opt and tell? Or is your part in that story so important that you are the right person to tell it? Because I would imagine that if you’re telling the story of someone else’s mental health, you’re not telling their story, you’re telling your story in relationship to that experience? Your own mental health story is different, but someone else’s is almost more precious and more important to really interrogate. What does telling this story do in the outer world? What does it do?

Okay (for example) ‘my mum attempted suicide, it was really difficult to be her daughter at that time when I felt like I was her mother. And we still have a fractious relationship, but we’re working on it.’ Let’s say that’s the story. Is Mum ok that I tell this story? Whose perspective am I telling it from? If I’m telling it from her perspective, can it be as close to the words from her mouth as humanly possible? I would always say, right from the start: verbatim, from the horse’s mouth, the actual living experience, is the closest you’re going to get to the truth and therefore the best type of autobiographical theatre, so that no one in the audience sits there and goes, I feel really uncomfortable, because I’m not sure that this is ethical or balanced, or… it doesn’t feel safe, it feels too gossipy or it feels too exposing or whatever. 

So as long as all the ethical parameters, permissions and power dynamics are fine, the next thing I would probably say about making a piece of work about somebody else’s story is, can they be on stage? That’s the easiest way to get to the horse’s mouth. And the most beautiful thing about human relationships is to watch them in reality on a stage, for me. 

And then the third question will probably be, what form should this take? And that’s always the question when I’m thinking about art, with students or with myself: what’s the best type of theatre or type of performance or type of audience based communication, live? Because we’ve all seen shows about mental health, we’ve all seen solo autobiographical shows. What is the way in which we’re going to tell this story that really helps the aim that you have for telling it, right? And by that I mean not your egotistical dream, not a ballet because you are a ballet maker, not a stand-up show because you’re a stand-up comedian. Not an ego choice or a skills choice. But what colliding this subject with this form creates the thing in the mind of the audience that I need to happen. 

So, if we’re talking about a mum who’s wanted to commit suicide, or a daughter having to deal with that, and a fractious relationship at the end, what is the best way of telling that story that does what you need? Well, if I want my audience to leave devastated and moved and crying, then perhaps it’s a melancholic opera. But if I want people to really feel hope that, even in the darkest times, someone will always love you, perhaps it’s a different form. Perhaps it’s actually a puppetry show with your mum on stage, music and full neon. There’s a beautiful thing that happens when you collide particularly mental health or dark, dark things with beautiful things or with light things. 

So, if you’re going to tell someone else’s story it’s often really good to ask that person: what’s your favourite kind of theatre? What’s your favourite kind of music? Or what was the imagery that was always in your mind at that time? Because they will give you so much creative thought. Like Tim telling me he couldn’t show his face. It’s always good to say ‘that’s your story. I’m going to help you tell it, but it’s not going to be about me and my choices. I just know how to be an artist, but you know how to be you. Tell me the colours of it. Tell me the songs of it.’ Do you know what I mean? It feels really important to always be checking the power balance and the ethics because there’s such a tendency to not check in with what the audience might be thinking. They don’t know you. And I think we got that wrong quite often in Fake It.

You said earlier that there were days when Tim had to take a complete break and have a sofa day? How did you manage that once the show was up and running?

We did cancel a few. And we did have to cancel a whole tour when Frank got ill, you know, there was always the option. I think it was really important for both of us to know, this isn’t the be all and end all, it’s written into our contract. If one of us is mentally unwell, we cannot do it. It was James Leadbitter who said, you need to have that option, it’s too much pressure to think whatever happens you’re wheeled out on stage. So it never felt like we were in prison. When we were in Australia (in Spring 2015), where we probably did the most gigs of that show, we had a producer, Dan, who looked after us for each city and was a very close friend of ours and very well versed in mental health and was just the type of cuddly person that you could just say, ‘today is not a good day, we cannot fly out, we cannot do interviews, we have to have a day off’ you know. So part of it was that being looked after and being given an out meant that we carried on. Something I try to tell artists all the time is, this isn’t the be all and end all, life is most important. Art comes after that. And even when you’re talking about your life, you are a private person with your own life, you can’t give everything, that’s not healthy. 

We also looked after ourselves. We certainly didn’t drink and we didn’t eat badly. And we slept. And the point of him doing the show was to be better. So not only were we making the show and touring around the world, we were also really looking after ourselves and our mental health, or his mental health particularly. And we would always seek out lots of joy and fun – we were going places, you know, that had things we hadn’t seen before. So we were also on holiday and tourists and kind of doing things. And I think for him, particularly because the world of art was so different to the world of marketing, and because he is a very social and charming man, we just surrounded ourselves all the time with lots of lovely people. And we made so many beautiful friends. And we always would, when we arrived at a festival particularly, we would always do the brunch at our house on a Sunday where we’d invite all the waifs and strays, any solo performers, get everyone together in our apartment, and Dan was really good at this, a very comfortable nice out of town apartment bikes that we could get around. And we would cook for everyone and sit around and talk about what it’s like to be at the festival, how we’re looking after ourselves, like I’d done it long enough to know that there were people that would have just been pissing up the wall if they hadn’t had a mummy to kind of come to if they needed to. 

And again, co-dependency, but we looked after ourselves, we treated it like a holiday and like a social occasion as much as we did a performance. And there’s something also very beautiful about that pre show and post show ritual. He had his own rituals, and I had my own rituals. And we talked about them. And we again would have that time after the show where we’d have a bit of a cry, and then we talked to people and then we’d maybe go for dinner. We just made sure that we weren’t taking it with a pinch of salt, what we were doing.

What would you do immediately before and after a show? 

We’d always cycled together. And both of us are quite early people, we quite like routine, so we’d always arrive an hour before the show. You sometimes see performers rock up like five minutes before a show drunk and kind of f***ed, but we would like to go into our trailer an hour before. Both of us would do yoga. I really love ironing my clothes so I would iron mine and his costume while he would meditate. And then I put my face on, we both practice our lines. And then we’d just smoke because both of us smoked at the time. So we’d sit out the front of our trailer, particularly in Adelaide, I can remember it was boiling hot, and we’d sit in our costumes outside our trailer for the last sort of ten minutes before the call. And we’d chat to the people in Soap next door and we chat to the people in Briefs, who were on the other side, and just treat it like a family occasion like try and make it a social thing. As much to feel like we were grounded in the world, that when we came out of the show we were back in our home space. It felt really important to feel like just outside the tent is our home and we can go back, that we’ve just got to do this for an hour, and then we can go back to our lives. So we’d do the same thing every day, like grannies. And I do that always.

It was around this time, early 2015, that you became pregnant – you were six months pregnant when you performed the show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2015. How did that impact on everything?

I knew we were going to try, that was a separate thing. When we knew we were going to be on tour we knew we were going to start trying. And the first thing that happened was I got so sick because obviously first trimester sometimes you can just be so poorly. So there was just this puking. I had to drink a little bit of lemon Fanta just before I went on stage and hope that I wasn’t going to puke. And also you’re not telling anyone, so you’ve got this little secret. And that was tricky, just practically because as soon as I came off stage, I was like, I need to go to bed, like there’s nothing about this that’s gonna be fun anymore for a while. And I think already my mental health was slipping and I didn’t vocalise that to him. There wasn’t the space. I’m sure he would have been more than happy to help but I don’t think I was able to articulate ‘I feel like I’m gonna tip over the edge here’. 

And I think the dynamic shifted, as would always do with a couple where suddenly there’s one person growing a baby that feels kind of, especially with your first child…. the woman gets to be used to it a lot sooner than the man does, because the baby is inside you. And I think I changed. Suddenly there was something other than Tim to worry about. And I think that scared him. The wheels came off quite a lot when I got pregnant. And yes, we were sort of trying to do the show about love whilst also navigating this new scary thing that was driving us apart a bit. 

I was six months pregnant in Edinburgh, but I was eight and a half months pregnant when I finished the tour. You know, I was leaping around with a giant, nearly term baby. I think I finished two weeks before I actually gave birth. It was too much, it was stupid. I mean, I think if I was pregnant now I’d still go on stage, it wasn’t the being pregnant that was difficult on stage, it was being pregnant in our relationship was difficult, you know, but it made the show amazing, because it was just like, there’s this other thing there all the time. And it’s so exciting to look at a pregnant person for anyone. I think it’s just like, Oh my God, there’s a person in there. 

It made the final moment where he sang me the song so beautiful, because he was also singing to the baby. I think it filled the show with a kind of promise that was kind of an extra layer that we didn’t expect. But behind the scenes, I think it was really tricky. 

It must have been very stressful for both of you.

It became a real burden, the show, it became a real noose. And again, I don’t know how you notice, it’s so hard with mental health, isn’t it? Because you have a survival instinct as a human being. You have a survival instinct to stay alive. So if your brain is telling you to kill yourself, not one single human part of you wants to admit that to anybody, because part of your survival is trying to hide that from yourself and from everyone else. And only after the fact can you say, God, that was bad. When you’re in it, I think it’s very, very difficult to articulate even how you’re feeling, because you can’t say it while you’re in it. 

I find with my own mental health, it’s only after the fact that I’d say God, that was a dark week or that was…. and more and more I’m able to kind of know, but I think your brain is also trying to trick you into thinking it’s okay, so you can’t trust what’s going on in your head. After I’d had the baby and I had postnatal depression, and it was really tricky because Tim was also depressed, just after Christmas, when Frank was about two months old, it felt like something cleared, Tim went back on his tablets, and I was coming out of quite a dark period, there was a moment where we first started touring Fake It again, where Frank was in the dressing room, my sister was with us, and it felt like the beginning again. It felt like we’d got over something and we were going to be okay. And that we were beginning to talk about how tricky it had been, the pregnancy, and we were getting to know each other a bit better. 

And then Frank got ill. And that was just like… there was no space for us to heal. It was just chaos. And I think I just called it. I said, I can’t go to the hospital every day and also come home and argue with you. You have to leave, there isn’t space for you. You know, there isn’t. And I think that devastated him. But I also think that now he would agree, the only possible thing that we could have done was to separate. We got back together afterwards, about a year later. But again, we tried it and then we were like, oh, actually, we don’t even like each other, like we were just pretending, or we were just someone else. It was really clear to both of us. It was like, Oh God, no, no. And I think even now both of us would say, we’re nothing alike, we don’t have anything in common. I think both of us wanted a family. Both of us desperately wanted to find the person for ourselves, our forever person. 

At what point did you call time on the show?

We had a Spring tour planned (in 2016). So the idea was, mid-October 2015 was when we stopped Soho (Theatre), and I gave birth on 8 November. And we had gigs in March, April, May, and we knew that my sister would come with us. People are like ‘you can’t go back to work that early!’ but  it was, it’s not really back to work because we’re all together and the baby’s with us, and we’re gonna go on stage, but we’re not leaving the baby and suddenly separating ourselves. So actually it was quite nice. We packed up the van and off we all went, and it was really joyful. It felt like medicine again, it felt good again. And then I think we did three gigs, Manchester, Oxford, Norwich. And then Frank got ill. And it was an emergency as soon as it happened. So we knew that we had to cancel.

My tours are always managed by my agency Avalon, and they came to the house. And, you know, it was our income for the next year. The idea was that we do our gigs, and then we would figure out what to do next. Would we make another show together? Would we become a duo? Or would Tim go back to work? Like, we knew we had a year’s worth of income from these gigs, and that year would be lovely because we were raising our baby together and he wasn’t having to go anywhere, it was quite nice. And all of a sudden Frank was sick and we had no money. We didn’t know what to do. 

And we sort of said to my agent, what can we do to make money? We couldn’t work, we were just in hospital, and it was Judith, from Complicite – I was making the musical (A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer) with them, and they knew it was going to be a pause on that – who was like, ‘we need to ask people to give you money’. And so incredibly, a few theatres, a couple of high profile comedians, people that we knew, people we’d been friends with, and people that were allies of ours, just gave us money. Judith was like, ‘you need to not be worried about money whilst you’re trying to fend off this thing’. And so these cheques just appeared and we put them in our bank account, and we just lived frugally. And it was amazing actually. And I’ve tried to give it back since and everyone’s just been like, no, no, no. And I think it was in the spirit of that, when COVID hit, and everyone was f***ed that I remembered this money thing, that’s why Brian (Lobel) and I started #GigAid. It was like, if you cannot afford your f***ing mortgage, you need to tell us, and we were matching donors up with artists and yeah, yeah…  (long pause). So we never did the show again. Yeah.

Read / listen to part two of the interview here.