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Sweet Phoebe

Published Friday 30 April 2004 at 17:25 by John Di Folco

They are a brittle pair, Helen and Frazer, in Australian playwright Michael Gow’s play, which scratches a sharp nail down the smug, self-satisfied face of the yuppie generation, way back in the distant eighties.

Receiving its Scottish premiere under Andrew Panton’s direction, this production opts for a series of daily snapshot sequences that quickly expose the mind-numbing sterility of the relationship of this ego-centred duo. Shop talk about design projects and board meetings culminate with quick bouts of offstage sex .

The catalyst that snaps this banal routine is a dog called Phoebe. We never see it but it is clearly the child substitute and its sudden disappearance - it makes for a rougher and more interesting neighbourhood - sparks off frenzied efforts at retrieval, leading to a stormy voyage of self-discovery and a glimpse of a wider world that is depicted in terms of simplistic, social deprivation. A nasty, bleak and ultimately cynical route it is, too.

Billed as a quirky, black comedy, it teased few laughs out of the audience in the Levy studio at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews. It is an intimate space and not one I relished sharing with this sad, objectionable, odd couple, portrayed by Joanne Bett and Jack McGowan with a bizarre mix of gripping intensity and singularly little emotional conviction.

That said, there are moments when her graphic descriptions of the housing estate family she overnights with and her husband’s extra-marital copulating are both deeply revealing of the sheer aridity of their lives.

Production information

Byre Theatre, St Andrews, April 20-May 1

Michael Gow
Andrew Panton
Theatre Dynamo
Joanne Bett, Jack McGowan
Running time 1hr 15mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014