Two, Jim Cartwright
Theatre Royal (Dress Circle Bar)
Runs: 1h 35m: one interval: (Touring)
Fine production. Outstanding acting.
New Nottingham-based theatre company Longpig have taken Jim Cartwright’s 1989 two-hander and deliberately set it in the early eighties – the good/bad old days when pubs could offer three indifferent beers: an unspecified bitter, Guinness and lager, plus spirits, no food except crisps, no quizzes, no telly and no music – yet manage to be packed all evening.
Two remarkably versatile actors, Sylvia Robson and Gary Keane, play the married couple behind the bar along with all the customers, and, at chucking out time, a little boy looking for his dad. This is first-class, sometimes brilliant acting. And it incorporates some classy mime and stepping out of the main action to address individuals in the audience.
It’s all utterly British. There’s an array of beautifully done accents, it being a northern boozer, ranging from Geordie, Scouse, Lancs, Scots, and everything in between. Except, that is, for the one belonging to a flamboyant apparently upper middle-class woman, a southerner, the only one who pronounces “last” with a long “a”.
Cartwright’s work is often concerned with working-class/under-class desperation and hopelessness – think The Rise and Fall of Little Voice or Road. But this play offers much more: its focus is couples, and their troubled internal relationships.
Two is touching, heart-wrenching and often funny. There’s a useless youth with his doting but wily girlfriend; a presumably gay Scotsman with a sort of imaginary friend who slips into and out of his day; an S/M couple; a harrowingly realistic bit with a nasty gaslighter and a girlfriend (Robson is terrific here) he’s reduced to a wreck…
What lingers on the mind though comes at the end with the little boy/cathartic scream scene, when the rockiness and desolation of the pub couple’s marriage is made explicit then explained. The acting, especially Robson’s, moved strong men in the audience. But the play, essentially tragic, ends with more than a faint hope of reconciliation.
Directed by Andy Taylor, Longpig will be taking Two to mainly pub venues round the country. It also deserves to play at bigger venues.
Director: Andy Taylor