EdFringe 2019 Review: Bryony Kimmings: I’m a Phoenix, Bitch

Bryony Kimmings: I’m a Phoenix, Bitch 

Rating: ★★★★
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard

Performance artist Bryony Kimmings brings I’m a Phoenix, Bitch to the Edinburgh Fringe. This is an artistic piece filled with humour, compassion and raw emotion explored with an invigoratingly creative originality.

Kimmings takes us back to 2015, a traumatic year of her life in which her relationship with her partner deteriorated, she battled with her mental health, and very near lost her son. Taking us through key moments from the beginning of her relationship, to buying her rural Oxforshire cottage with her partner, I’m a Phoenix, Bitch moves into darker territory as it explores the aforementioned challenges that hit the performer.

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch uses a range of innovative performance techniques with four large sheets covering key props that represent integral moments of Kimmings’ 2015. Emerging in an orange sequined dress, the performer tells us about the pre-2015 Bryony. She is quick-witted and naturally amusing as she tells us about her previous shows – all of which she notes contained crying. Yet, this feels deeper, more cathartic than these previous pieces containing a stirring emotional weight as Kimmings begins to take us through the highs and lows she has faced.

Shot like a dreamy eighties pop video, Kimmings projects herself onto the screen as she sings about meeting her husband and cooking him breakfast – playing up notions of the insane, possessive girlfriend in this comic number. With things going well, she moves to the next covered prop – a richly detailed model of her Oxfordshire cottage. She uses small models and her handheld cameras to talk us through the property – which has an eerie familiarity to Toni Collette’s dollhouse in horror film Hereditary. The tone stays macabre with Kimmings channelling fifties B-Movie horrors with a black and white handheld shot vignette as she begins to explore the fragility of mental health.

Kimmings and co-direction from Kirsty Housley uses the physical performance aesthetics of the production as a savvy parallel to showcase the dire reality of Kimmings’ situation. A sequence which follows the deterioration of her relationship with partner Tim and the ill-health of her newborn son, is staggeringly bleak. A projector depicts a backdrop of the woods which Kimmings runs through, she begins to dig – the intention is to bury her child’s clothes and toys – with the projection moving to depict Kimmings digging herself into and ultimately becoming trapped in a darkened pit. It is a surprisingly impressive moment of aesthetics that acts as a clean-cut visualisation of Kimmings’ mental health battles. Thudding sound design furthers the traumatic, emotive effect of this scene.

Kimmings is also battling an inner saboteur (the voice of a middle aged white male who the performer describes as something as smarmy TV exec) which showcases Kimmings refreshingly transparent honesty in all facets of her journey. She goes on to discuss her experiences with therapy where she picks up the mantra ”I am strong!” – as well as a particularly unpleasant experience with a nutritionist, further invest us in Kimmings’ journey.

Bryony Kimmings: I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is a striking showcase of the potential power of the human spirit. With striking aesthetic design and a cathartic performance from Kimmings, this is a piece rippling with staggering emotion.

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