Review: Shrunk

By John Nathan, May 27, 2010
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The Cock Tavern, London NW6

Jack Klaff as the psychiatrist confronted by Amanda Ryan in Shrunk

Jack Klaff as the psychiatrist confronted by Amanda Ryan in Shrunk

Charlotte Eilenberg's second play is much smaller than her first.

The Lucky Ones spanned 30 years and tackled big themes, including post-Holocaust reparation. It won the author two most-promising playwright awards.

Shrunk shrinks the timespan to 75 minutes and sets the action in a cosy but claustrophobic psychiatrist's consultation room. It is not the play the awards promised.

It does, however, courageously take risks. And not only because, as the most recent addition to a category that could be called "the psychiatry play", it sails close to the most famous work in that genre, Tom Kempinski's Duet For One.

Here, instead of Kempinski's Freudian (and Jewish) quack Feldmann, we have Eilenberg's Jungian (and Jewish) shrink Max (Jack Klaff). And on the couch, instead of a musician struggling to come to terms with disability, we have Celia (Amanda Ryan), spurned wife of one of Max's patients.

Riskier still, Eilenberg deploys two of drama's rustiest devices – one is a gun with which Celia interrogates Max about his part in her husband's decision to leave her - and the other I cannot tell you without betraying the play's big twist.

Yet amid all this familiarity, there is a searching central and original question. How much damage do psychiatrists cause to those who live with their patients? Lots, if Eilenberg's play and her articulately vengeful heroine are anything to go by.

But on this evidence, it is hard to see theatres on the look out for a psychiatry two-hander opting for Shrunk over Duet for One. Despite the gun, Julian Birkett's production is almost devoid of tension, with Klaff's sluggish Max stalling the momentum generated by the impressive Ryan's neurotic Celia. Still, bags of promise though.

(Tel: 08444 771 000)

    Last updated: 2:59pm, May 27 2010