PHOENIX RISING To 2 December.

Tour.

PHOENIX RISING
by Campbell Kay.

Tour to 2 December 2011.
Runs 1hr 30min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary 9 September at Nottingham Playhouse.

Rush out to see it.

Whether or not you appreciate D H Lawrence as a writer of fiction or as a poet, rush out to see this one-man show. Even if you’ve read or heard enough about Lawrence to have reservations about the man himself, go see it; it might change your mind.

If all the above fails and you still loath everything about Lawrence, you’ll nevertheless be knocked out by the piece. From writer Campbell Kay and actor Paul Slack, it’s a small gem.

It’s 1928. DHL is in France with less than two years to live. He receives a letter from David Chambers, a friend from his youth. The business of replying to it triggers this play – it’s much more than a monologue – in which Lawrence takes us through his early life in and around Eastwood.

In particular we learn about his intense relationship with the Chambers family at the Haggs Farm, and even more particularly that with Jessie Chambers, the Miriam of Sons and Lovers.

Kay’s writing, vigorous and rhythmic, is utterly compelling, and splendidly served by Slack, who doesn’t attempt a second-rate impression of Lawrence. He is altogether more physically robust than Lawrence ever was, and he doesn’t worry about the Notts/Derbyshire accent or the high-pitched effeminate voice. Instead he lets the text speak for itself.

In the process the actor begins to look like his character. The inner man, the spirit of the man is manifested. You begin to see why so many people found him such good company.

The famously problematic mother-son relationship is covered well. So is that between father and son. The impression we’re given of Lawrence Senior is unfavourably biased, but it’s given by DHL himself, not by a dispassionate researcher.

Two things linger: a feeling that Lawrence’s brother Ernest, who died young, might have been a loss to us all, and a poignant impression of that long dead family at the Haggs Farm.

D H Lawrence: Paul Slack.

Director: Campbell Kay.

2011-09-14 23:52:07

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