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20 September, 2019

Completely devastating and utterly divine

Full disclosure: I judge books by their covers and choose shows by their titles.

Yes, it’s a gamble but in this case, one that paid off.

Bryony commands attention from the outset – careening on to the stage in a sequinned orange gown in a show of melodramtic mime and slapstick – before breaking the fourth wall and addressing her audience directly.

“This is a safe space,” she reassures. “You’re safe and I’m safe… now,” she tells us.

It’s hard to fathom the need for such a disclaimer at first.

What follows are hilarious anecdotes about pre-2015 Bryony – the Breakfast Nymph and the Earth Mother – told at two of the four set ‘stations’ uncovered on the stage.

For a one-person show with limited sets and props, Phoenix fills the large Playhouse stage with ease.

The tone and content of the autobiographical show flips and darkens as Bryony re-enacts her post-natal depression, relationship breakdown, son’s near-fatal illness and her own eventual psychosis.

It is devastating. And beautiful and honest and captivating and enthralling and all too relatable.

And it’s funny! Not the gasp-for-breath laughter that punctuated the first third but enough to hear chuckles punctuating the stifled sobs and stunned silence of the Playhouse audience.

I’m rarely moved by emotional performances but it’s no exaggeration to say I discovered – to my surprise – tears rolling unchecked down my cheeks and dripping on to my shirt.

It was sublime theatre and a work I haven’t stopped thinking about in the ensuing week.