Tag: Melbourne theatre

Review: I’m a Phoenix Bitch

An intense and vital story of motherhood, madness and hope.

By Irene Bell

Don’t go see this show with your mum … or do, I don’t know.

Bryony Kimmings’s latest, I’m a Phoenix, Bitch, is not a gentle and loving portrayal of motherhood. The descent into madness in this autobiographical performance piece is not in any way sexy or mysterious. While the sets are cartoonish, the asides comical, this play is unashamedly real and brave. What an absolute privilege to see this show.

Kimmings is a fantastic writer; her monologue never gets stale and the rapport she builds between her and the audience is almost instant. I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is her story of becoming a mother, a series of traumatic events and how she ultimately finds herself again – or meets and comes to understand her new self, at least. Early on in the show Kimmings says the we are safe with her – this is true, but it doesn’t mean only an hour later you won’t be crying ugly, therapeutic tears.

The staging is wonderfully simple and clever. Four set pieces covered in white sheets wait for the show to begin. Each represents a part or a place in Kimmings’s story. As she uncovers each one, inviting us into her past and revisiting it herself, we are drawn deeper and deeper into the trauma. The separate scenes are delivered with humour and wit, mostly shown through a camera whose filming of Kimmings’s performance is projected onto a screen. The scenes are played as pastiches of various classic cinema depicting women, mothers and female mental illness. It’s tongue in cheek until it becomes too real, until the scene spits Kimmings back out into the monologue, no hiding behind a camera.

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is the beauty of theatre: at its heart it is a room full of strangers flexing their empathy muscles as we listen to a woman’s story and truly, from the bottom of our hearts, wish her all the best. You wish for a happy ending that doesn’t come, not because the ending is sad, but rather because life goes on. Go see I’m a Phoenix Bitch ready to open your heart to a stranger on stage and her son.

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is playing at the Arts Centre until 15 September. Tickets can be bought here online (www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2019/theatre/im-a-phoenix-bitch) or by calling the box office on 03 9281 8000.



Unexpectedly moving…

By Anastasia Russell-Head

Cafe Scheherazade is a tale of survival, of hope, of culture, place and time. Based on Arnold Zable’s novel of the same name, this play tells the story of proprietors Masha and Avram Zeleznikow and three regulars at their café in 1990s St Kilda. They all emigrated to Australia as Jewish refugees after World War II and come together five decades later to tell their stories to a young journalist, Martin.

Drawing both laughs and tears from the audience (for me the image of a young exiled Jewish boy in Shanghai discovering an old man practicing Tai Chi in the misty dawn was unexpectedly moving), the importance of telling and knowing history is revealed and debated as the protagonists slowly reveal their moving personal stories.

Performances from the cast were uniformly strong, with Richard Bligh and Marta Kaczmarek especially standing out. The staging at fortyfivedownstairs evoked the modest post-war styling of the café, with its vinyl seating and laminate tables. Unfortunately sometimes the clarity of speech was lost in the “boomy” space, but otherwise Adrienne Chisholm’s deceptively simple design was very successful, with the audience surrounding the action on three sides.

Music is used to great effect in this production, with Ernie Gruner and Justin Marshall providing a superb Klezmer-based live soundtrack.

The story of displaced people escaping persecution and building a new home in a foreign country is particularly relevant in Australia today, and the stories told in this play take on a new poignancy in light of recent political debate. Engaging, affecting, and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.

Café Scheherazade

A play based on the novel by Arnold Zable

Written by Therese Radic

Directed by Bagryana Popov

Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane

Until 11 September

Tuesday – Saturday 8pm

Sunday 5pm

Matinees 2pm Wed 24 & 31 Aug

4pm Sat 27 Aug & 3 Sep

$45 / $40 / $37.50

Bookings: 03 9662 9966 or www.fortyfivedownstairs.com