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Country News - 2002

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REVIEW: Settle Festival of Theatre - "Two" by Jim Cartwright
Wednesday 24 April

Victoria Hall: 23/4/02
by G O'Donnell

If you only intend going to the theatre once this year – then make sure that "TWO" is the one thing you go to see! If you intend going more than once then make sure that you see this at least twice! The more you watch it the more you’ll see in it.

The real joy of "Two" is that it is not just a play for theatre-buffs -although they will undoubtedly enjoy it also – but also for anyone who has ever sat in a bar and caught odd snippets of conversation or observed people and wondered how they came to be there. In short it is a play for ordinary people about ordinary events on an ordinary night in an ordinary pub – but what makes it extraordinary is the skill with which the events are juxtaposed by the writer and the dynamic way they are brought to life by two very skilful actors.

Jim Cartwright was born, and continues to live, in Lancashire and in "Two" he has caught both the humour and sadness of one night in a Northern pub. The play is designed so that two people play all the characters with both the bar paraphernalia and other people in the bar being mimed. This creates a tremendous challenge for the two actors as they not only play the landlord and landlady but also a whole variety of customers who pass through the bar that evening.

Both Dominic Grey and Libby Machin are more than equal to this task and manage to create a stunning array of characters and encapsulate a wide range of emotions. There are moments of great poignancy in the speech of the old man reminiscing over his long dead wife and tenderly evoking her memory and great humour in the relationship between the ageing Lothario Moth and his partner Maudie and in the contrast between fantasy and reality in the marriage of the Igers.

Then there is the old woman trapped in her relationship with an increasingly ill husband with only her visits to the butcher and a drink in the evening to relief her burden of constant care. Meanwhile Lesley is locked into an impossible submissive role with the obsessively jealous Roy whereas Fred and Alice are content with their gentle love for one another and lost in their world of TV and Elvis. And observing it all are the Landlord and Landlady, part of the scene but also locked in their own private world while continually putting on an act for the punters.

At times the act becomes very obviously brittle and the mask slips to show the real pain behind the smiles, however it is not until the final moving scene that the truth is revealed to the audience. This alone is worth the price of admission – two riveting performances which become totally addictive as audience is held spellbound by the harrowing revelations as to what has caused such a rift in their relationship.

Thus a play about ordinary things becomes that most extraordinary of things – a mirror that reflects back a new way of looking at the events which happen all around us, the drama in the everyday. This is truly unmissable theatre – even for those who regard themselves as "non-theatre goers!"

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