Actress 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 solo show in which she wanted to demonstrate that “even after receiving the most devastating news, there is still hilarity and joy to be had”. It was played in his hometown of Nottingham last September.
His agency, Curtis Brown, said he had lost “one of our brightest stars”. The National Theatre, where she performed in Small Island in 2019, tweeted “She was lost far too soon and our hearts go out to her loved ones.” Brown also appeared at the National in 2018 in If We Were Older, a production of his school playwriting program.
Brown’s theater credits included performances at the Donmar Warehouse and Soho Theater in London, the Birmingham Rep, Leicester Curve, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, and the New York Theater Workshop. She was part of an all-female comedy troupe, Major Labia, along with other Nottingham’s Television Workshop graduates and associates, and was a creative associate at Nottingham Playhouse who called her “kind, talented and funny”. In a social media poststhe theater added, “She was a big part of our artistic community and we will miss her. Seeing her perform The Glad Game here last year was wonderful.
The Glad Game reopened Nottingham Playhouse in September for its first full season since the pandemic began. Three years earlier, Brown had been diagnosed with an incurable tumor in the region of his brain that controls speech, language and memory. She said: “I wanted to write and perform a play about life being stranger than fiction… There are still things to be happy about.” The piece was also streamed online. Nottingham Playhouse artistic director Adam Penford hailed it as “an honest, candid and funny account of life with a terminal illness”. Pippa Frith, who produced The Glad Game, said 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 program at the Hampstead Theatre, in which a group of writers compose a full play framed by playwright Roy Williams. In a tweet, Williams said: “I was just getting to know her but already she was a wonderful presence in the group of writers.”
Brown has also acted in 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 2021 BFI London film festival. Last month, she starred in an Arts Council-backed BBC comedy short called Hung Out to Dry, a Western parody in which she played an unemployed actress competing with her neighbor to see who can hang up the wash the fastest. It was co-created with his partner, Jake Kelsall.