We've been spending the lead-up to the the Edinburgh Fringe Festival interviewing a lot of comedians, but few have been quite as interesting as performance artist Bryony Kimmings. Just as adept at being able to make an audience laugh, she is also remarkably skilled at reducing them to tears, all in the same hour.

Bryony Kimmings

Bryony Kimmings

Bryony will be returning to Edinburgh this year for a new performance that will stand-out hugely from the masses of stand-up gigs across the city. Indeed, she admits that her "worst nightmare" would be to stand up on stage with just a microphone, as she much prefers to sing, dance and get up to various other crazy high jinks ("Once someone bit an inch-sized chunk out of my leg on stage").

That aside, perhaps the subject matter that comes out most with Bryony Kimmings is that of trauma. Indeed, finding joy during the most painful aspects of life is not easy, but Bryony makes it an art form. Her latest show, I'm a Phoenix, B***h, deals with one of the most traumatic years of her life. We spoke to her about what she went through, and just how that transformed into a glittering stage show.

"I had a baby and I developed pre-natal anxiety, and then post-natal depression, and then my kid got very ill with a neurological condition when he was very small so he was straight into the hospital", Bryony revealed. "Lots of emergency-type things happened. Then I broke up with my partner who I had my child with and then I lost my house because I couldn't pay the rent. It was just a cataclysmic, horrific year."

I'm a Phoenix, B***h largely centers on the motherhood side of that difficult journey; the centre of that explosion of agony which must have left her struggling through a lot of intense emotions all at once. But when you've suddenly got someone else in the world to take care of, dealing with your own mental health feels almost impossible.

"The show is about why we, especially women, don't talk about post-natal trauma and why we talk about motherhood in a very specific way", she explains. "It's kind of like an epic legend about trauma and motherhood but it's got songs and it's funny as well as being extremely sad."

The fact that Bryony can make light of certain aspects of life now by no means suggests that her situation was any easier to deal with. On the contrary, she was left perpetually wondering when the next disaster was coming and was forced to confront the limitations she was putting on herself when it came to moving on.

"I was constantly watching out for it", she said. "I found it very hard and had a lot of therapy about how to relax again and not expect the worst in things; actually training myself to be happy which I found insane. I had to sit down and think, 'Why am I not happy? Maybe I'm not allowing myself to be happy'.

"Now I'm like, "Oh, these years happen, they're gonna happen again", but at the time I was like 'What is this?!' I'd never really had a traumatic experience before", she continued. "Suddenly something horrific happens like cancer or a parent dying or whatever that thing might be, and it's suddently so overwhelming. And it's like, why does no-one tell you? And also why will no-one talk to you?"

When it comes to transferring that experience to the stage, it takes a lot of preparation and a lot of research to get the audience response she's aiming for - that is, fits of hysterical laughter one minute, and sobbing heartily the next.

"It gets super, super heavy in the dramatic arc of the show so: How do I make sure that the beginning is really fun and really light, and that you're able to slightly fall in love with me as a character but also to laugh at yourself?" She says. "You just have to sort of sit and be like 'Okay, how many funnies do we need?' The funny stuff is all in the naivete and being like, 'I'm fine, my life's great!'

"By the time you're like 'Okay, I'm gonna hold your hand but we're gonna go dark now', people are more forgiving or at least they've had a little bit of light relief. Then of course after you've done the big dip of narrative hell, you couldn't just leave people sobbing in their seats so at the end I really try and make them laugh."

When it comes to humour, there really is a finesse to carrying off a joke that comes from an extremely dark place. Bryony has that mastered, and it's all down to being able to put herself in the audience's shoes and recognising how they might be feeling when things are getting heavier.

"I just try and tell it as honestly and as simply as possible but knowing that they need their hand holding or their hair stroking at points", she explains. "A lot of theatre I watch doesn't work like that and I think it can sometimes be traumatic to watch. This show isn't."

Bryony recognises that the UK in particular have a habit of using dark humour to cope with bad situations; if we're not showing a stiff upper lip, we're laughing about our own adversity, no matter whether its political turmoil or looking death in the face.

"When I made [A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer] at the National Theatre a few years ago, I'd sat in chemo wards for like a year and they were the funniest places", she admits. "People were making the most hilarious jokes and, as British people especially, we need that balance. Our go-to with something bad is generally shut up or make a joke. Don't cry, make a joke. So I think we're used to that language."

Watch Bryony Kimmings in I'm a Phoenix, B***h at Pleasance One at Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 31st July to 25th August (she will not be performing on 12th August).

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk