"Spooky story about dead singer"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 22/02/15

Biopics are a difficult genre to perform at the best of time. This problem is even greater when it involves people who are hardly household names. Don Fried’s “Phoenix”, which runs at the Phoenix Arts Club, looks at the life of fictitious singer-songwriter Alan Phoenix, a fictionalised version of Nick Drake. While Nick Drake has been cited as a key inspiration for many modern bands, he was relatively obscure until many years after he died. From the moody, acoustic, snippets of music that appear in this production, this obscurity is not hard to understand.

Despite this, the play is actually quite gripping. Reporter Chloe Baxter (Jo Shirley) is writing a book about a secretive pop star who has become a cult hero decades after his suicide. However, all the people who knew him, refused to talk to her. She finally persuades his sister (Lousie Templeton) to open up. This paves the way for her to approach all his friends, from schoolboy friend David Somer (Richard Woolnough) to sleazy producer Will Pierce (Patrick Doherty). As the story unfolds we find out that Phonenix (Jack Sharman) may have had “help” from long-dead blues singer Robert Johnson (Chris Machari)

The real strength of the play is the way in which balances the horror of the supernatural elements, and Alan’s descent into madness, with comedy. At the same time it makes some wider points about how suicide affects those left behind, without getting too preachy. It is a strong play that raises a few hairs on the back of one’s head, no mean feat given the non-traditional nature of the performance space.

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