Charlotte Eilenberg's 2002 debut, The Lucky Ones, won her the Olivier and Critics' Circle Awards for Most Promising Playwright. Sadly, this therapy-centred follow-up fails to fulfil that promise, despite offering occasional glimpses of it.
The set-up is familiar – not least from the far superior two-hander Duet for One. In a house in Kilburn (near to the play's venue, the Cock Tavern), successful Jungian psychoanalyst Max Goldman meets a patient, Celia, who is agitated following her husband's recent walk-out.
The first of several twists arrives when Celia pulls a gun and insists that Max swap roles with her and lie on the couch himself. This obvious metaphor puts both his marriage and his profession under the microscope, as a lucid (if hysterical) Celia proceeds to quiz him on his choice of career, his jealous relationship with his wife, and the reason he refuses to read a stolen copy of her runaway husband's diary.
Does Max know more about Celia's husband than he's letting on? Is his career merely a smokescreen for his own psychological flaws? Will the portrait of Carl Jung hanging on the wall come alive to bang their heads together? We never really find out, and by the time the play has withered to its messy and incoherent conclusion we're rather past caring.
As Max and Celia, Jack Klaff and Amanda Ryan labour admirably. Although perhaps too young for Celia, Ryan is nevertheless energetically psychotic, with Klaff her suitably bemused foil. The best scene arrives when Max must conduct an interview live on air whilst staring down the barrel of Celia's gun, a moment that comes closest to sparking Julian Birkett's otherwise rather untidy production into life.
Shrunk has apparently sat in a drawer for five years, and could certainly have done with a more vigorous dusting when it resurfaced. But as it stands this 80-minute war of words never really gets off the ground, culminating in a mistimed bang and an anticlimactic whimper.