Sweet Phoebe is a classic example of what you can achieve with a sharp script, good tight direction and two top actors. Director Paul Griffins adapted Australian playwright Michael Gow's text to suit a middle-class white South African context by relocating the action to Cape Town.
Sweet Phoebe features Genna Galloway and Matt Newman in a compelling yet somewhat harrowing account of a marriage on the brink as the characters' sense of self is tested. Genna Galloway, as Helen, plays a designer married to Frazer (Matt Newman), and does so with notable skill. Newman is totally credible as Frazer, an advertising executive who struggles to stand up to his boss, and a worried husband who is easily consoled by his caring wife.
The couple are seemingly living the perfect ordered yuppie life; their sparse living space and their laptops attest to this as do their great careers and a presumably healthy sex life. They prescribe to living life to its 'full potential' and repeatedly declare: "We're better together." As the audience, we already sense the old adage, it sounds too good to be true.
Their ordered life takes a turn when they are asked to sit their friends' dog, a miniature Schnauzer called Phoebe. This marks the beginning of a series of very funny, yet troubled revelations about their clearly non-watertight marriage.
Both Newman and Galloway are more than convincing as they display besotted behaviour with the child substitute, a novelty in their daily existence.
When Phoebe disappears, however, their ordered world becomes loose at the seams. The manic search for Phoebe is evidently less about the dog and more about their projections of Frazer's trouble in the workplace and a teetering marriage.
Watching the growing rift aptly depicted by Galloway and Newman becomes increasingly torturous for the audience.
Galloway's portrayal of a surprised Helen deeply touched by the shared humanity displayed by an array of individuals from lower-class neighbourhoods, for want of a better term, is highly amusing.
Newman successfully captures the irate Frazer, fed up with Helen's stories, wants to cut straight to the chase. Did she find Phoebe or not?
Newman is quite frankly amazing in his credible portrayal of a man in a frenzied state. As the pressure mounts at work, and the imminence of the return of their friends, Newman displays the intensity of this frustrated man with great aplomb. As his world slips from his hands, he succumbs to weakness. "All because of a dog!" he exclaims. Both actors utterly convince as they deliver this tricky two-hander peppered with fast and fiery dialogue, with finesse.
Don't miss this exhilarating performance by this skilled duo. It's on until 28 November at 7pm nightly. The show carries an advisory for strong language. Tickets cost R80 to R90 and can be booked online at the Alexander Bar website
or purchased at the bar during its regular opening hours.For more live theatre, go to www.writingstudio.co.za