Adelaide Fringe

Phoenix Rising – Adelaide Fringe 2011

Presented by the Centre for International Theatre
Reviewed Saturday 19th February 2011

Venue: Main Theatre, Higher Ground, Light Square, Adelaide
Season: 6:45pm to 13 March 2011, no performance 28th Feb.
Duration: 90mins
Tickets: all tickets $23/group 6+ $20

Written and originally directed by Campbell Kay, directed for this performance by Guy Masterson and performed by Paul Slack, this is the first of seven of the ten productions brought to Australia this year by Guy Masterson’s Centre for International Theatre that I will be reviewing, with Rod Lewis reviewing the other three that I have already reviewed in past years. It was certainly a fine start to my season of CIT reviews.
Paul Slack portrays D. H. ‘Bertie’ Lawrence, very ill, nearing the end of his life and reminiscing on his earlier, formative years growing up in Nottingham. The text was drawn from Lawrence’s writings, as well as the memories of family, friends and others.

If that was all there was to it, this would still be a very good production but, no, there is much, much more. Slack also plays a host of other characters, including Lawrence’s parents, brother, his girlfriend and muse, Jessie Chambers, as well as numerous friends and teachers.

Lawrence came from a working class background, his father an alcoholic miner and his mother a teacher, and he was extremely close to his mother. This play takes us through to her death from cancer after a lengthy illness, which left him devastated. The other woman in his life at that time was Jessie Chambers, at whose family home he spent many happy times.

We see his unhappy days at school, lighter moments, such as his attempts to make potato cakes, as well as his first steps into the literary world that he would later embrace completely. Throughout all of these brief reminiscences Paul Slack slips easily from one character to another in the blink of an eye, in a totally captivating performance. In so doing he introduces us to a multifaceted man coming to terms with life and his own unusual approach to it.

Whether you are well-versed in the works and life of Lawrence, or know nothing more than that his last novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, was banned until 1960, you will find this fine play a fascinating and rewarding experience thanks to Paul Slack’s terrific performance. Don’t miss it.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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