21
Oct
19

I’m A Phoenix, Bitch!

 

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch

QPAC & Brisbane Festival 

QPAC Playhouse

September 18 – 21 2019

 

Reviewed By Shannon Miller

 

 

Shrieking melodramatically and pursued by God only knows, co-writer and performer, Bryony Kimmings enters the stage in a gold sequinned dress and blonde wig, frantic and helpless. She is pursued ridiculously by herself, a creature of her own making, as she flips between the damsel in distress and the hunting beast; an introduction lampooning Hollywood clichés, scream queens, slasher films and creature features.

 

However, the damsel turns the tides and defeats the monster, triumphantly shooting invisible fireballs from her loins! Kimmings is victorious and turns to the audience posing the meta-theatrical proposition, “Imagine if I started the show like that.”

 

Surrounded haphazardly by set pieces covered in sheets, Kimmings sheds the bling and levels with the audience, donning active wear and embarking on a heartbreaking personal monologue of a much darker time in her life. She meets her partner, Tim. They fall in love, and move into a quaint cottage out of town of which they’ve been warned by the agent of a pastoral stream having the potential to swell and flood the property.

 

 

They move into the cottage nonetheless; part dream-home, part Evil Dead/cabin in the woods. Kimmings soon discovers she is with child and everything couldn’t seem more perfect. However, the stream rises inevitably as it has been foretold, and the story delivers a child plagued by medical issues, born in the midst of a relationship breakdown, while Kimmings’ character is flanked by a crushing post-natal depression.

 

Along the way, she reveals the set pieces, which appear shambolic at first but soon become a curated visual psycho-sphere, items of the symbolic order which join the dots to this quickly harrowing tale: a kitchen, a back window, a miniature of the cottage, metonymic icons of the limited roles she is expected to play in a patriarchal society.

 

 

She puts the book into song, too, at times channeling Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, the yes girl, the bimbo, the damsel, the siren, Lorna Jane, the psycho – stereotypes that seek to sum her up and limit her as the gathering plot begins to unravel her in synchronicity with the rising stream.

 

Kimmings has written a sharply targeted one-woman show, and she draws the audience so tightly under her control. Every second of this work is deeply felt, beautifully rendered and at times utterly exhausting. It’s funny, whimsical and a serious commentary on not just gender inequality in the domestic sphere, but it’s a personal anecdote in which the audience is voyeur to a working practitioner’s creative, self-healing process.

 

 

This is a grim modern fable daringly funny and with darkly uncompromising feminisms echoing Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion and Jeanette Winterson. The story twists in the direction of mother-shaming, anxiety-driven perfectionism, and self-flagellation as the new currency of excellence, honing in on the pressures to be a strong and independent woman, girl, and lady – to become everything: the lover, the caregiver, and the breadwinner.

 

With stunning multi-media and set design, and a dénouement so unexpectedly dramatic and nuanced, this remarkably redemptive narrative set within a current movement of self-care and mental health awareness is buoyed ultimately by hope. A truly compelling theatrical experience.


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