Considering that DH Lawrence penned one of the most controversial novels of the 20th century (Lady Chatterley’s Lover), I had anticipated his earlier life experiences to be just as exciting. Unfortunately, the years covered in Campbell Kay’s Phoenix Rising, were for the most, rather unremarkable.
The play takes us through Lawrence’s memories of his formative years, up until the death of his mother. Along the way we are introduced to a number of characters that had an impact on his life in this ambitious one man show.
Carrying such a production on your shoulders is no easy task, yet Paul Slack’s endearing performance as DH Lawrence managed to keep the audience on side. His wonderful characterisations of the people that impacted his life lit up the stage through 90 minutes of otherwise tedious memoirs.
The more tender moments of the piece saw the audience captivated by Slack’s genuine and truthful performance. Sadly a great deal of these moments were ruined by some of the most bizarre and clumsy lighting choices I have seen in professional theatre.
The opening of the piece seemed to belong to another play entirely. The entrance of Lawrence mid argument and with a bloody head was not at all in keeping with the rest of the play, and set the piece up to be something that it wasn’t.
I can imagine the piece may appeal to the enthusiastic Lawrence fan, however to the average theatre goer,(as much as I wanted to like it) the piece could be very dull at times. The underwhelming, unremarkable stories of Lawrence’s early life don’t really lend themselves to a stage play. Though well performed by Slack, his performance definitely outshines the content of the script.
Reviewed by Laura Cooper
Phoenix Rising is playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 17 October 2015. Click here for tickets