Paul Slack - Phoenix Rising

Adelaide Festival 2011 - Reviews and Comments

'Kryztof' Internet Review

Paul Slack delivers a powerful one-man performance of the young D H Lawrence in Phoenix Rising, a play about a man on the verge of becoming one of English Literature's canonical writers and thinkers. In a series of short snapshots, using a simple set and enourmous imaginative talent, Slack brings the young 'Bertie', along with a host of other characters that populated his younger days, to life.

Slack maintains energy throughout the performance, quickly moving from one scene to the next. Comedy and tragedy continually undercut each other - a hilarious funeral for a pet rabbit turns into a mournful reflection on the death of his brother , Ernest - and sections of rich Lawrencian description sit alongside colloquial dialogue. A particularly memorable moment is Slack's impression of W. B. Yeats, on Lawrence's first entry into the London literary scene.

The portrait of DHL is sympathetic but without reverence. We see glimmers of the controversy that would surround Lawrence's later life especially in regards to his radical and complex ideas on sex and sexuality. These moments are touching and at times brutal. Like many of his great characters, lawrence struggles to break the duality between the feeling and the thinking, the animal and the spiritual. And despite the inner contradictions of Lawrence's character, the audience is left with overwhelming sense of the man's passion for life.

By Kelli Rowe

Sunday Mail

For someone who liberated a generation with his passionate novels, D. H. Lawrence was rather frustrated and restricted.

Obsessed with his mother and distanced from his hard-drinking father, Lawrence reflects on his upbringing as his health fails in exile in France.

Paul Slack captures the lifelong conflict disturbing and probably driving Lawrence's literary soul, as he cannot love another like his mother.

Director Campbell Kay keeps the pace moving as he reminisces, desperate to practice what he preached. Slack deftly switches to other characters in the much-maligned author's life.

It's a valuable insight into an author not fully recognised in his time.

By Matt Byrne

'Talk Festival'

In a round-up of the festival in general Phoenix Rising was one of a handful of shows singled out of "...a smorgasbord of 759 events..." by Murray Bramwell in The Australian as "...particularly worthy of note..."

Below is a selection of comments taken from the 'Talk Festival' website where Phoenix Rising was consistently in the top ten shows with a 5 star rating:

"This play has something for everyone - the literary references, the emotional journey, the character acting. What's not to like?"

"If you like D H Lawrence or just appreciate great acting and well written words, this show can't be missed!"

"I thought I had tickets to see an actor called Paul Slack perform a play about D H Lawrence's life. Didn't happen. Instead I was treated to Lawrence himself reflecting on life and what it meant, with cameos from his father and mother, friends and peers. it made me laugh, and cry a touch, and feel cheated when it finished so soon. You don't have to be a Lawrence fan to appreciate the story: we all saw elements of our own struggles with life and family in the play. It says in the programme that the author of the work, Campbell Kay, didn't want anybody else but Paul Slack to do the play. One can see why. If you haven't seen this yet, make sure you do. Paul Slack's performance is one of the highlights of the festival this year."

"A touching and intimate portrait. Beautifully written, and superbly acted on a simple stage with minimal props, this show takes us through the full range of emotions and we are left in awe!.....This is Fringe theatre at it's best!"

"An ovation for Phoenix Rising! Brilliant portrayal of the life of D H Lawrence. Paul Slack was mesmerising as 'Bertie' - and other characters in his life. This is a must-see performance. Beautifully written, tightly directed, georgously acted. Bravo CIT Adelaide and Paul Slack!"

"A captivating performance by an amazing actor whether you know a lot or nothing about D H Lawrence, it is no matter. This is a story about a man, about passion and experience. A definate 'must-see' be you a theatre buff, a fringe follower or just looking for something beautiful."

"Brilliant!"

"Paul Slack is quite simply a superb actor. His presence and command, technique and focus combine to create a snapshot of D H Lawrence that is moving and intelligent. The language of the play - as one might expect from it's description as "dileriously literate" is exquisite and exquisitly delivered, with clarity and panache. There is barely a wasted gesture or movement here.
The play itself is almost a taster for a deeper autobiography and I would like to learn even more, but I came away feeling like I had been in Lawrence's presence... the piece left me in awe of language and in awe of the man who penned Lady Chatterly, The Virgin and The Gypsy and Sons and Lovers and has remained at the top of the canon for good reason.
Well done Paul Slack for a beautiful piece."

"Not a literary experience as such - which was a relief! But a wonderfully delivered, beautiful piece of acting effortlessly delivered by Paul Slack. It's amazing to me in general how actors can 'appear' to be so naturally 'working' on stage, and Paul's grace, economy of movement, piercing yet twinkling-eyed portrayal of Lawrence was both engaging and informative.... Go see!"

"Phoenix Rising tells the story of D H Lawrence's childhood, adolescence and younger adulthood, culminating when he has his first works published. Although unfamiliar with D H Lawrence (apart from Lady Chatterley's Lover), I chose to attend this play having overheard praise from other theatre patrons. it was a good decision as I enjoyed the richness of language and interesting tale of Lawrence's relationships with his siblings, parents, school friends and first loves. The conflict he felt between his 'pure' love for Jessie and lust for other women was powerfully conveyed.... another piece of fine theatre by CIT and a wonderful experience."

"Brilliant portrayal by Paul Slack - totally transported us into Lawrence's world for the whole time"

"Upon seeing the play advertised I began to reminisce about many happy days spent with Lawrence back in the 80's and 90's. I had to see the play. Hmm, I thought, I don't know what it will be like, Lawrence is Lawrence - unique - can it be done?
Yes, definately. From the moment Mr. Slack walked on stage Lawrence was present. The smile, the mannerisms, the way one can imagine Lawrence speaking from his works and the way he writes his letters, it was all there. Mr. Slack was incredible as Lawrence as a child interacting with his siblings, through to the young man in torment through his mother's long-term illness, as drunken father and as Lawrence's mother. Mr. Slack did it all with such superb skill and insight that one came away feeling they had been privy to the Lawrence household.
Amazing. A must see."

"Wowee - I didn't know much about D H Lawrence before seeing this lovely piece. And now I just want to go read all his stuff. Paul Slack's performance was beautiful. He was born to play Lawrence."

"I've been absolutely blown away by this. I'll admit, going in, I had reservations - a steeper than I'm used to ticket price and the long held judgement that theatre, and in particular a play about a dead literary figure, was not relevant to me, surely just for middle class, older white folk. But having an ulterior motive of being from the small town D H Lawrence was born, (and despite which, not knowing a thing about him), I made the last minute decision to drag myself along, if secretly just in anticipation of scorning the actor's accent.
How wrong I was. Against all my judgements, I was swept away from the start and held spellbound in this evocative telling of the writer's early life. Paul Slack (seriously outstanding) plays a burst of supporting characters superlatively, but it's his Lawrence with an abundance of boyish, exuberant energy and gripping language that keeps you transfixed. (As for the accent - well he sounds more like me than I do).
At the all too soon ending, I was shocked to feel a little teary, a first to be moved by any theatre outing! And I walked away desperate to find out more, breathless and alive.
A million stars!!"

"Close your eyes and you are transported to D H Lawrence's childhood and the surrounding country! Paul Slack was absolutely mesmerizing in this one-man play! He may be small in stature but he is a giant in acting! Have seen most of the CIT shows this festival and previous ones and this was the best ever!

"Others have said it better than me, but this play should be mandatory for all lovers of fine acting and great theatre. The language of the play was mesmerising, the actor so natural and the story was abrilliant insight into the early life of an extraordinary man. It reminds me of those wonderful Alan Bennett plays about humble folk in northern England. I thoroughly reccomend it. Paul Slack is a great Lawrence."

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