Phoenix Rising, The Big House, review: ‘Intelligent, magnetic and raw with emotion’

PUBLISHED: 10:29 15 November 2017

Rebecca Farinre and Aston McAuley. Picture: Rick Findler

Rebecca Farinre and Aston McAuley. Picture: Rick Findler

Rick Findler

Essential viewing at the Smithfield Meat Market, this play tells a harrowing tale of life after care

Perrina Allen and Atlantia Sami. Picture: Rick Findler Perrina Allen and Atlantia Sami. Picture: Rick Findler

If you’re going to see any theatre this month, it should be this. No introductory waffle, just a simple request.

The Big House Theatre Company works with youngsters leaving care and at risk, enabling them to fulfil their potential, potential that is clear from watching their new play, Phoenix Rising.

Directed by founder Maggie Norris, and written by Andrew Day with help from the cast, there is a certain poignancy to this production as it revisits the Big House’s first play in 2013, which was informed by the experience with multiple sclerosis of one of the cast members. Dwayne Kieran Nero died earlier this year, and this reimagining has been dedicated to him.

The audience follows 18 year old Callum around the car park of Smithfield Meat Market as he leaves care, going straight into poverty and dealing alone with a lifetime of trauma.

His dreams of being a world class runner fade as his legs start to fail him. He endures visits from social workers (whose infuriating platitudes of “looking into it” and “processing requests” make no tangible improvements to his life), fractured personal relationships and heart wrenching flashbacks to a childhood before care.

Aston McAuley achieves something remarkable with his portrayal of Callum. He throws himself into the role with an astonishing level of mental and physical energy; it’s a highly intelligent interpretation, both magnetic and subtle. His interactions with Oz Enver as the disease are haunting.

In fact, the entire cast make the play. From Perrina Allen as Callum’s manipulative girlfriend Nina to his friends Omar (Jordan Bangura) and Bready (Daniel Akilimali), who inject flashes of comedy – not easy in a play of this weight. The set pieces involving the whole cast really hammer home how polished Phoenix Rising is.

When a theatre company can put on a better show in the basement car park of an old meat market than many can do in a plush theatre with all the gimmicks at their fingertips, I know which I’d rather support.

There’s no buffer to separate the audience from the story. It’s raw with emotion and you live it with them in the knowledge that it isn’t just a story. It’s the lives of young people all over the country, and something needs to be done.

Rating: 5/5 stars

(Meet at The Hope pub at 7pm) Tickets: thebighouse.uk.com/phoenix-rising

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