I’m a Phoenix Bitch was originally performed at Battersea Arts Centre in London during their Phoenix Season – a selection of work to celebrate the reopening of the main hall of the venue after it was destroyed in a fire. The show received rave reviews and has now transferred to the Edinburgh Fringe. Even though her venue is different, the themes of rebirth and rejuvenation within Bryony Kimming‘s show are very much apparent.
I’m a Phoenix Bitch begins with Kimmings introducing herself as a performance artist and letting the audience know that several years ago she went through a transformation. We then are given a potted history of her previous heartfelt and provocative theatre shows, bringing us up to date. Sort of. I’m a Phoenix Bitch is Bryony’s story since her last show Fake It Till You Make It in 2015 and a lot has happened since then.
On stage are four areas covered in white sheets. Behind these sheets are various miniature sets that each present different periods of the last three years. Here we learn that the performer moved to the country with her partner and had a child. The relationship did not work out as planned and the couple decided to go their separate ways. This separation also occurred during the time that their new born was diagnosed with a rare neurological problem.
The story is told through song and comedy and this approach helps convey the deep emotions in a relatable and personal way. Throughout I’m a Phoenix Bitch we also witness Bryony’s internal monologue, which takes the persona of a deep voiced middle class man. This imposing voice is filled with self doubt and criticism; it stalks the performer, turning up at difficult times to make the situation even harder and unbearable.
I’m a Phoenix Bitch lays bare the torment of postnatal depression and psychosis and the need to seek help from professionals and people you trust. The conclusion is touching and reminds us of the importance of looking after our loved ones and taking care of ourselves at the same time. This in turn can help us lay our demons to rest.