TWO WOMEN To 13 March.

London.

TWO WOMEN
by Martina Cole adapted by Patrick Prior.

Theatre Royal Stratford East Gerry Raffles Square E15 1BN To 20 March 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 13 March 2pm.
Audio-described 13 March 2pm.
BSL Signed 4 March.
Captioned 18 March.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 8534 0310.
www.stratfordeast.com
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 February.

Cut-and-paste adaptation of popular novelist.
Two women? Well, more or less. Women characters outnumber men in Patrick Prior’s stage version of mega-seller Martina Cole’s London crime novel. And they outstrip them more than numerically. When Susan’s husband turns nasty on her, it’s to his mistress she goes and gets help. The mistress being also husband Barry’s boss at the nightclub where he works on the door.

Female friendships develop throughout Cole’s novels as women discover positive qualities in each other. Whereas the men mainly offer varying degrees of violence. In this story they include two child-abusers, while the middle-class male lawyer is less legally deft and personally forceful than his female counterpart.

But there are less than two women, too. Middle-class Matty may be banged up in a prison bunk with Susan, both in for killing their men, but she hardly gets a look-in till near the end. It’s Susan’s story, this, and Cathy Murphy takes her from soft-spoken early days in loving awe of handsome hulking Barry through hard-edged anger at his behaviour, to a withdrawn defensiveness, its cause only finally becoming evident.

Cole’s soubriquet as “The Person Who Tells It Like It Really Is” describes her strength and limitation. Her novels contain vivid passages, often depicting strong East London females whose resilience and positive values contrast the male violence around. Yet the strength of her writing’s marred by repetition and over-explicitness, spelling-out the resoundingly obvious.

Prior’s adaptation highlights the weaknesses, without the compensations of Cole’s narrative context. Little room’s made available for character development, and the actors show no sign of being prompted to do more than the obvious in Ryan Romain’s ploddingly literal production.

Designer Yannis Thavoris economically catches locations – a bunk-bed wheeled on for the prison cell, neon lights for a nightclub, a single wall for Susan’s flat, its shabby austerity reflecting one of the play’s stronger points, the poverty in which Barry keeps his wife while living with his mistress.

And Cole is popular. Her strong stand for women in tough situations resonates, as Murphy ploughs-on with integrity through adversity, judging by the enthusiasm of s Saturday night Stratford audience.

Geraldine: Frances Albery.
June: Victoria Alcock.
Barry: Marc Bannerman.
Joey: Michael Bertenshaw.
Wendy: Sophie Cosson.
Colin: Marcus Ellard.
Frances/Angela: Sheryl Gannaway.
Matty: Laura Howard.
Susan: Cathy Murphy.
Doreen/P C Blackstock: Alison Newman.
Roselle: Sally Oliver.

Director: Ryan Romain.
Designer/Costume: Yannis Thavoris.
Lighting: Declan Randall.
Sound: Theo Holloway.
Voice coach: Jan Haydn Rowles.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Antonio Ferrara.

2010-03-01 10:03:33

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