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Down to Zero review at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle – ‘sympathetic and often very funny’

Samantha Neale and Arabella Arnott in Down to Zero Samantha Neale and Arabella Arnott in Down to Zero

Lizi Patch’s new play Down to Zero is a smartly written relationship drama, unusual in that it centres the experience of a menopausal woman.

On the eve of her 50th birthday, Steph (Arabella Arnott) is being whisked off for a romantic getaway by her younger partner, Sam (Brian Lonsdale). But the trip exposes the fault-lines in their relationship, from Sam’s jealousy to Steph’s insecurity. When a thoughtless tweet brings a young woman Freya (Samantha Neale) into their lives, the barriers Steph has constructed to keep parts of herself separate begin to crumble.

Director Matt Jamie makes the most of his talented cast and captures the humour and empathy of the writing: there are some genuinely funny moments and plenty of sharp lines, enlivening a fairly pedestrian plot.

Arnott’s character is the most richly written, and she is particularly good at capturing the swirl of often conflicting menopausal emotions, portraying a woman who feels as though her life has slipped beyond her control. Lonsdale brings a pleasing warmth and vulnerability to his role, while Neale’s mix of spiky fragility and steeliness fleshes out a character that feels a little too convenient a catalyst. All are well-served by Molly Barrett’s versatile design, which uses Alphabetti’s compact space well.

The main show is followed by commissioned response pieces. Poet Degna Stone’s monologue Probably is a sharply written mediation on age, race and fear, while Beccy Owen’s Fanny Magnet is a warmly funny look at the secret symptoms of menopause. Other performers will follow throughout the run.

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Verdict
Sympathetically written and often very funny relationship drama that explores the menopause
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