Edinburgh Fringe 2019
I’m A Phoenix, Bitch
Genre: Devised, Drama, Feminist Theatre, Installation Theatre, Multimedia, Musical Theatre, New Writing, One Person Show, Performance Art, Physical Theatre, Puppetry, Solo Performance, Solo Show, Storytelling, Theatre, Tragedy, True-life
Venue: Pleasance One Courtyard
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Part musical, part drama, part installation-art, part horror flick, a hugely ambitious, multi-disciplined, multi-dimensional tour de force.
I’m not going to give the game away, but I will say, be prepared to be blown backwards, off your seat, just when you want to be leaning in. Bryony Kimmings is a force of nature… A naturally gifted multi-faceted performer, singer, comedienne, writer, lyricist, musician there are few people on the planet who could sell you this story – her story – a desperately true one – the way she does, that simultaneously drags you down into the depths of her despair and makes you laugh while you’re being willingly shackled.
Her story, like most good ones, is a single life event and told linearly… beginning, middle, end. A single moment of desperately bad luck complicated by a few (self-admitted) bad decisions, exacerbated by deep neuroses coupled with post-natal depression and powerful anti-depressants… a combination which might not sound like a particularly promising foundation for what I rate as an incredible work of theatre, but it’s clearly the way she tell’s em!
If you are going to share your story – your most painful, pitiful, bitter, sad and twisted story – this is the way to do it, but you’ll only succeed if you have Kimming’s unlikely combination of talents and imagination.
As a 58 year old man – a husband of 20+ years and a father of two mercifully healthy teenage girls, I feel almost unworthy to be writing a critique of this work, and I am relieved to say that I have no criticisms. Zero. Zilch! Further, I cannot profess to comprehend the primeval forces that bind a mother and child or the forces brought to bear on a new mother facing the confusion, heartache and helplessness of her newborn in the grips of death and at the mercy of experimental drugs as was Kimmings… But I’ve observed post-natal depression from close-quarters and it’s not pretty.
Kimmings draws on all her influences to tell her story. She has created a stage set-up that enables her to bring each chapter to us often in pop-art glory together with a pumping soundtrack, supreme use of mic effects and voice… Through virtuosically integrated lighting and sound and supreme stagecraft and metaphor, Kimmings seemingly draws us into her crazed mind and allows us to sit here, behind her eyes, looking out. Being in there with her is deeply unsettling, yet powerfully cathartic. She warns us at the beginning that we will be safe… after all we’re in the theatre. What can happen to us? So we know we will emerge unscathed… and on the back of this disclaimer Kimmings ratchets it up and makes it super-special. She drags us in there with her. We almost experience her, physically and emotionally. It is what great theatre is supposed to do… And this is a great piece of theatre which needs to be experienced.
I don’t know how many more performances Kimmings can or could give. She was emotionally wrecked at the end of the show I witnessed… I used to give a two hour solo performance of “Animal Farm” which used to wipe me out emotionally and physically and that wasn’t my story. Kimmings leaves nothing in the dressing room. She gives it all to us. This is a true natural born performer and this is her most personal performance. What she experienced she would not wish on anyone else, but her sharing of it is an experience we need to have.
MUST SEE, OUTSTANDING, DO NOT MISS… All of them.