Bryony Kimmings turns trauma into art with ‘I’m A Phoenix, Bitch’

Bryony Kimmings turns trauma into art with ‘I’m A Phoenix, Bitch’

Words by Jonti Ridley
Image by The Other Richard

Prepare to rise from the ashes with Bryony Kimmings’ latest solo show, I’m A Phoenix, Bitch.

Making her long awaited return to Melbourne, the UK performer has drawn from her own trauma to create a masterpiece that is right at home within this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival program.

Kimmings has never shied from sensitive subjects when it comes to her stage works, and with I’m A Phoenix, Bitch she delves into trauma and postnatal depression with a new level of honesty and vulnerability – the kind of candour we’ve come to expect from the fearless performance artist. 

Following the success of her sell-out show Fake it ‘til you Make it which first hit the stage in 2015, Kimmings has seen some dark days. Four years later, she’s ready to share all that she’s endured as she emerges stronger than ever with I’m A Phoenix, Bitch.

Working through themes of motherhood, heartbreak and inner strength, Kimmings has had more than enough inspiration over the last few years. In 2016 her relationship began to crumble just as she was grappling with postnatal depression and caring for her extremely sick child.   

Though instead of letting it get the best of her, this dark period became the foundations for I’m A Phoenix, Bitch. For Kimmings, it was about turning pain into power, as well as starting conversations around taboo subjects, such as postnatal depression.   

Somewhere on the spectrum between a therapy session and a pop performance, Kimmings’ latest solo show is vulnerable, empowering and looks to destigmatize the issues that so many women battle silently. She says her work is often inspired by themes we work hard not to talk about.

“My shows are usually born out of me going: ‘We don’t talk about this enough, this is problematic in terms of a political or feminist narrative’,” says Kimmings.

Her primary hope for the show is to give “almost unspeakable traumas” a voice.

“I wanted to create a show that cuts to the heart of these things but does it in a way that people can relate to, a way that we can still laugh and have fun,” she says.

While many would shy from sharing such intimate stories, especially with a room full of strangers, Kimmings’ work is frequently autobiographical and seeks to leave a mark on audiences.

In the past, we’ve seen her focusing around “social experiments” with the intent of provoking thought; there’s plenty to gain from seeing her work.

Previous productions have included retracing her own STI to the source, becoming a popstar designed by a nine-year-old, and spending seven days under heavy intoxication. 

Like those before it, I’m A Phoenix, Bitch promises to include the multi-faceted style that we’ve come to expect from her work, interweaving a range of disciplines including film, music and performance. 

Developed as part of Art Centre Melbourne’s The Kiln program in 2017, Battersea Arts Centre and the Attenborough Centre co-commissioned the work with support from by Latitude Festival and the British Council.

Two years on from its inception, the show will return to its birthplace fully formed to make its Australian debut as part of Melbourne Fringe.

Having picked herself up from one of the bleakest points of her life to take her award-winning work around the world, there is certainly no better metaphor for Kimmings than the phoenix, bitch.

I’m A Phoenix, Bitch comes to Arts Centre Melbourne from Wednesday September 11 until Sunday September 15 as part of Melbourne Fringe. For tickets and more info, head to the Arts Centre website.