Paul T Davies reviews Bryony Kimmings I’m A Phoenix Bitch presented as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.
2016 was Bryony Kimming’s scorched earth year. Her son, Frank, become extremely sick, her relationship with Frank’s father imploded, postnatal breakdowns and psychotic episodes, and she nearly drowned. Rising like a phoenix, she performs her first solo piece for ten years, and I’ve rarely seen a piece of such searing, raw honesty, channelled into powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking theatre. I was so glad to hear her introduce the piece and stress that she is safe, the performance is safe, and systems are in place to support her. She uses the psychotherapy technique of Rewinding to visit the sites of her trauma, with superb art design by David Curtis-Ring and projection design by Will Duke.
The techniques she uses are superbly theatrical. She begins as pre-2015 Bryony, but she isn’t that person anymore. She speaks messages into a dictaphone to Frank, who, as a result of multiple brain seizures, may never speak, that she will give to him when he is 18. Throughout the piece, her critical inner monologue will break out and she speaks in a man’s voice. The music by Tom Parkinson supports her through each stage, from the hilarious breakfast song when she decides to keep Tim in her life, to the final sequence. In places it has a movie feel to it, and she pays effective homage to horror, melodrama and B movies.
It’s a cliché to say it, but this really is an emotional roller coaster. This incredible woman has shaped the scars of her experience into an inspiring show of survival and love. She is also wonderfully self-deprecating and connects with the full house immediately. Her mantra is “I am strong” and she lifts weights throughout the depths of her trauma, and her only wish, to hear back from Frank, is incredibly moving. I hope this process is helping her because the love and support from the audience were palpable. Extraordinary theatre, unmissable.