THE TWO OF US
by Michael Frayn.
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds Tour to 9 October 2010.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 October at Ashwell Primary School.
The two of them make for a happy foursome.
Nipping into the final performance of this tour from Bury St Edmunds’ Theatre Royal not only helped as a reminder of the way this Suffolk theatre has expanded its work under artistic director Colin Blumenau, but of Michael Frayn’s dramatic origins.
Four playlets make up his 1970 debut, a composite of middle-class female/male relationships. Black and Silver’s the most conventionally obvious, as a married pair return to their Venetian honeymoon hotel, this time with baby.
The New Quixote introduces awful young enthusiast Kenneth, whose post-Freudian theory of life is based on everyone meaning the opposite of what they say as he converts a one-night stand into an invitation to move in with the older Gina.
The near-monologue Mr Foot, in which a wife speaks thoughts and feelings provoked by her husband’s inattention and irritatingly mobile foot, is contrasted by the farcical activity of Gnomes, where a dinner-party is threatened by an unfortunate combination of guests.
Director Abigail Anderson’s decision to set each piece in a different decade only becomes noticeable here, sitting ill-at-ease with regard to hippie-esque Alex, who evokes reactions that are from an earlier generation. Still, the updating has led to some authorial changes in the script, so this tour is something of a Frayn premier.
The New Quixote spirals into a series of psychological speculations which look forward to the intellectual dramatist of Copenhagen, while the final piece anticipates soon-to-come Ayckbourn land, with similarities to the opening act of Absurd Person Singular, where a couple desperately try to keep offstage guests happy while making frenetic arrangements to prevent social disaster.
Frayn uses doors here with a frequency most farceurs would regard as shameful, while the actors must double as various guests. Designer Jane Linz Roberts offers a patterned room, subdued in colours, which makes the Venetian hotel seem drab but works elsewhere.
Anderson understands each scene’s different tone, while both actors work well. Simon Nock doesn’t quite catch Kenneth’s youthful contrast to Gina, but is fine elsewhere, while Alys Torrance is strong throughout, from her near-caricature last-scene Alex to the consistent psychology of the fidgety foot-afflicted wife.
Black and Silver
Husband: Simon Nock.
Wife: Alys Torrance.
The New Quixote:
Gina: Alys Torrance.
Kenneth: Simon Nock.
Nibs: Alys Torrance.
Geoffrey: Simon Nock.
Jo/Alex/Bee: Alys Torrance.
Stephen/Barney: Simon Nock.
Director: Abigail Anderson.
Designer: Jane Linz Roberts.
Lighting: Nick Stewart.
Sound: Paul Golynia, Ben Mason.