Review: Two. Longpig Theatre Company. Nottingham Theatre Royal.

Jim Cartwright’s immensely popular play Two, is beloved by actors and audiences alike. It is pure working class theatre chock full of drama, humour and pathos. The play’s captivating collection of short stories, living snapshots – if you like, feature an array of likeable, pitiable, dislikeable and ultimately – highly relatable characters at its strongly beating theatrical heart.

Cartwright’s ideal is that it is played by just two actors playing all fourteen contrasting roles in steady succession. The two key roles are the bickering landlord and landlady of a northern pub; a place that keeps them busy night and day giving them no social life of their own to speak of. Most of the characters directly engage the audience members as if they are chatting in the pub. The dialogues range from naturalistic to poetic.

Longpig Theatre Company’s production of Two is playing tonight as part of a Third Stage production in the bar area which suits the show’s happenings perfectly. The actors Gary Keane and Sylvia Robson are well directed by Andy Taylor. All of the acting space before this studio type audience is used to maximum effect. Both actors are superb in both their comedic and dramatic depictions and many of the fourteen characters they play between them are brilliantly nuanced and timed to perfection. Their characterisations are so real and solid that one starts to wonder what has happened to the landlord and landlady behind the bar. Then the artifice dawns on you…

Between Keane and Robson they bring to life the old lady who tells, via vivid butcher fantasies, of her sick husband at home with his ‘chicken arms’ and loose bowels; would-be gigolo Moth and easily manipulated Maudie; the single old guy claiming to be in touch with his dead wife through the medium of a teapot and Mrs Iger who loves big men to a fault and has a small ineffectual husband in real life. Most of the people portrayed have some degree of counter-action and counter-reaction to counter and they are so well written we are blessed with very believable personalities. Kane and Robson keep us constantly engaged and sometimes inwardly enraged at the attitudes and actions of characters like the bullying and manipulative Rory who treats his partner like shit.

Accusations, guilt and blame blast the air at the final part of the play as the landlord and landlady encounter a young boy who has been left in the doorway of the pub unsure of when or if his father will return. Two certainly pulls on the heartstrings and whilst the penultimate scene ends with a declaration of love after embittered arguments it is the whole that you will go away with. All the characters, how well it is acted out and how cathartic understanding other human points of view can be. And remember to take a couple of moments to remember that it was done by just Two very good actors.

Review originally written for Nottingham Post.

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