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