Get our free email newsletter with just one click

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch review at Battersea Arts Centre, London – ‘overwhelming’

Bryony Kimmings in I'm a Phoenix Bitch at Battersea Arts Centre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Bryony Kimmings has had a hell of a couple of years: post-natal depression, a break up, an ill-fated move to the country and the horror of a sick child. I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is a renascence rather than a resurrection, showing how trauma un-makes individuals, leaving them new, but often scorched.

Kimmings’ path back to herself mirrors that of Battersea Arts Centre. She found out she was pregnant as the Great Hall burned and returns to its restored space to process her pain through performance art.

While it may be flippant to describe the show as “therapy live”, many of the show’s elements have their roots in analysis. Kimmings rewinds her dark times by playing them out to camera on miniature sets. The live feed turns these into filmic interpretations, a way of neatly showing the different characters she has felt forced to embody.

Will Duke’s projections turn Kimmings’ suffering into a mythic battle against sheer bad luck. Her inner self-damning monologue is given the voice of a judgemental mansplainer. The anguish is relentless. Kimmings “pouring her heart out” is made flesh as she rips open the model of her cottage, the site of so much agony, exposing her miniature self to the elements.

There is no distance between the audience and her pain. This makes for an overwhelming experience that doesn’t deliver much in the way of catharsis. Bryony Kimmings’ and Kirsty Housley’s production does not provide the feel-good finale you might expect given the title; though we see a new Kimmings emerge from what has burned away, the focus is very much on what she has lost.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Bryony Kimmings charts her return from the edge in a distressing one woman show on trauma that hurts more than it heals