It may baffle at times, but Bright Phoenix is also quite magical, says Carole Baldock.
9 Oct 2014
The weird and wonderful cast is a good place to start when reviewing Bright Phoenix because they may be reminiscent of characters you've actually known.
Errant Lucas (Paul Duckworth) hopes to rejoin a gang from the so-called good old days: the volatile, anarchic Lizzie (Penny Layden), who now has an ingeniously entrepreneurial son, Calumn (Kieran Urquhart), (Mark Rice-Oxley) and the vivid Ste, romancing his beloved city with rooftop torch songs.
Then there's Spike. In one of the most stellar performances I've seen, Rhodri Meillir makes this deranged alcoholic compellingly sympathetic; the play seems to revolve around him far more than Lucas himself, particularly as the latter's exit is barely discernible, or comprehensible.
Likewise, the psychedelic conclusion; songs and music are amazing throughout, but this is an exceedingly noisy production – and one scene as horrifying as anything from Game of Thrones.
The gang are watched over by the splendid Cathy Tyson as the equally splendid Elsie Barmaid, and the cast also work well together portraying children. Flashback scenes include their leader, Lizzie's brother, Alan Icarus (Carl Au). but as all is revealed, how on earth Lucas dared to return, never mind their having anything to do with him at all, is a mystery.
And there's more, yet the dialogue and the language, from humourous to soaringly poetic, does not really tell us the whole story.
That events in Bright Phoenix unfold in the old Futurist, refuge and renovation project, and the regeneration/degeneration theme, are reasonably clear; what exactly is happening, is not.
It may confuse some then, but anything magical is also expected to baffle, so my advice is, sit back and enjoy yourself as this is a fantastical, roller coaster ride.
Bright Phoenix continues at the Everyman until 25 October.