Phoebe Frances Brown, ‘frank and funny’ actor and writer, dies aged 29 | Theatre

The actor and writer Phoebe Frances Brown, who created an acclaimed play about her incurable brain cancer, has died aged 29.

Brown starred and wrote in The Glad Game, a one-woman show in which she wanted to demonstrate that “even after receiving the most devastating news, there’s still hilarity and joy to be had”. It was performed in her home town of Nottingham last September.

Her agency, Curtis Brown, said they had lost “one of our brightest stars”. The National Theatre, where she performed in Small Island in 2019, tweeted “she has been lost far too soon and our thoughts are with her loved ones”. Brown also appeared at the National in 2018 in If We Were Older, a production in its playwriting programme for schools.

Brown’s theatre credits included performing at the Donmar Warehouse and Soho theatre in London, Birmingham Rep, Leicester Curve, the Edinburgh fringe and New York Theatre Workshop. She was part of an all-female comedy troupe, Major Labia, with fellow graduates and associates of Nottingham’s Television Workshop, and was a creative associate of Nottingham Playhouse which called her “kind, talented and funny”. In a message on social media, the theatre added: “She was a big part of our arts community and we’ll miss her. Watching her perform The Glad Game here last year was beautiful.”

Phoebe Frances Brown in The Glad Game
Phoebe Frances Brown in The Glad Game Photograph: Graeme Braidwood

The Glad Game reopened Nottingham Playhouse in September for its first full season since the start of the pandemic. Three years earlier, Brown had been diagnosed with an incurable tumour in the area of her brain that controls speech, language and memory. She said: “I wanted to write and perform a play about life being stranger than fiction … There’s still things to be glad about.” The play was also streamed online. Nottingham Playhouse’s artistic director, Adam Penford, hailed it as “an honest, frank and funny account of living with a terminal illness”. Pippa Frith, who produced The Glad Game, said that she was proud to have been Brown’s friend and that “her laughter radiated through everything we did together”.

Brown was one of 13 writers selected for this year’s Inspire programme at Hampstead theatre, in which a group of writers compose a full-length play mentored by the playwright Roy Williams. In a tweet, Williams said: “I was only just getting to know her but already she was a wonderful presence in the writers’ group.”

Brown also acted on radio, playing the role of Constance Pettigrew in the BBC Radio 4 series Home Front and appearing on the BBC mystery The Whisperer in Darkness. She appeared in an absurdist political comedy, Animal Antics, which premiered at the BFI London film festival in 2021. Last month she starred in an Arts Council-supported BBC comedy short called Hung Out to Dry, a western spoof in which she played an unemployed actor competing with her neighbour to see who can hang the washing out fastest. It was co-created with her partner, Jake Kelsall.

Leave a Comment