Sweet Phoebe is a play about the importance of sticking together. When things get really tough, you’ll only make it through if you stick together. It’s also a play about a relationship put very seriously to the test due to a missing dog. You can see how these two topics correlate.
Written in 1995 by highly-acclaimed Aussie playwright Michael Gow, and presented here by Jackrabbit Theatre, Sweet Phoebe follows Helen (Charlotte Hazzard) and her husband Fraser (Alastair Osment) over a period of weeks as they agree to care for and then lose their friends’ dog. They begin as the stereotypical “power couple”, their relationship conducted as efficiently and pragmatically as we imagine their careers are. It is, nevertheless, a loving relationship. When they agree to take in their friends’ dog for a week, they are thrown a little off-balance… and start to rediscover the fun in life. But when the dog goes missing their relationship is suddenly tested as they each become increasingly desperate to find it (perhaps to find real meaning in their lives?) in their own way.
The actors do a good job with what they have been given. I did not, for the most part, agree with the direction of the show. Almost all dialogue was expressed at a rapid-fire pace, which worked in the beginning to give a sense that these were two high-powered people with no interest in indulging silly romantic pauses, but by a few scenes in it became somewhat monotonous. The script is not without its faults but I did see several opportunities within the writing to soften the rhythm a little, to allow the characters the time and space to become three-dimensional beings rather than stereotypes, but unfortunately these opportunities were not taken. I hope some of this was Opening Night nerves and the characters may yet have a chance to fulfill their written potential.
The set was stark and practical, which served the peice well. I would have liked to see a little more movement on stage, as most of the action occurred within a small area in the middle of the stage. I kept wanting the actors to move the chair over there, or the mirror over here; but all-in-all it was not overly distracting – just a little claustrophobic. Lighting was well-used also, and again was practical and fairly light-on (if you’ll pardon the pun).
At the end of the day, this is a good-enough play. It conveys a story which is very relevant to our world today: so many of us get so tied up in work and lifestyle choices we forget to actually live and connect and cherish the fun moments. But I wasn’t moved by this production, and that’s really what I go to see theatre for.
Sweet Phoebe runs at the Old Fitz theatre as the Late Show until 12th November.
Felicity Vale – Theatre Now and Talking Arts