Following on from Nexus Book Group’s reading of Two by Jim Cartwright, we went on a group excursion to the Royal Exchange to see Justin Moorhouse and Victoria Elliott perform it! For more about the actual play itself, please refer to my earlier review here.
Two is a very low key play, with only the two cast members and one setting – the interior of the pub. The foyer of the Royal Exchange is decked out with a hypnotically flashing fruit machine and other pub games evoking the atmosphere of a Northern pub. Designer Amanda Stoodley’s minimalist main stage with its circular bar and apt pint glass chandelier comes to life with impressive, yet subtle, lighting adding to the mood. The circular bar, a necessity because of the stage at the Royal Exchange also neatly reflects the trap many of the characters find themselves in in their relationships.
Moorhouse plays the part of jovial landlord very well, his background as a stand-up comedian put to excellent use as he interacts with the front rows of audience. His personality embodies the amenable Landlord, the lynchpin of the community tremendously, leading the audience clapping along to the ‘jukebox’ hits. However, his comedic performance can backfire at times when Moorhouse is trying to pull off serious scenes with the audience finding his portrayal of the little boy hilarious, when it is supposed to be one of the more poignant sections of the play. His sinister Roy, however, floored the audience as the action moves from humour to physical violence within seconds.
Victoria Elliott is the stand out of the pair, her conviction selling the characters to the audience as she switches from one to another. Her Mrs. Iger is a standout as she fantasises about ‘big’ men to hilarious but empathic effect. The two actors make moving in and out of their assorted roles look effortless as they switch from comedy to tragedy, confidence through to meekness. They don’t linger, the script moves quickly on its dizzy Merry-Go-Round of characters.
Overall, Two suffers slightly with the vignettes of the characters too slight and short in some cases to fully sympathise with and flesh out, but balanced with the gentle humour, and denouement between Landlady and Landlord, Two might be a mixed bag but hits the spot in the end. I enjoyed it; it is a worthy adaptation of an interesting central concept with more than enough skill and flair from the two actors to carry the play to its inevitable conclusion (much more apparent on stage than to me reading the script). Probably a play to see as a couple – we disagreed within the group as to our favourite characters – it might spark.. discussion in your relationship!
As a short aside, I didn’t realise, but apparently upstairs in the mezzanine gallery is a photographic display of boarded up North West pubs. Proof positive, if more were needed, that this type of intimate pub shown in Two is sadly dying out. I suspect that history will look upon Two very favourably in years to come as an example of life in society gone by – quite shocking for what is a modern play.
The Fiction Stroker gives Two three strokes out of five:
Two is on at the Royal Exchange until 25 February. Tickets are available from here.