Playing the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme until 22nd February 2020 is Two – Jim Cartwright’s 1989 two-hander that explores issues in the day to day lives of those who frequent, and work in, a public house in a working class town.
The theatre has been transformed into a public house with an open, round bar and pub tables in the first row, a superb design from an experienced Lis Evans, with every detail taken care of, down to the working beer pumps and the ability to go down into the cellar from behind the bar.
Set brilliance aside, 2 actors – simply credited as Man and Woman, play 14 roles between them from their introduction as the pub landlords, to becoming a variety of characters. The way that Jimmy Fairhurst and Samantha Robinson become such different characters is special to watch – with just a simple costume change such as a cardigan, and a change in stance – each actor delivers powerful monologues and takes the audience into their world of interpersonal struggle. This is a masterclass from the two hardworking actors.
What begins as lighthearted fun quickly takes a dark twist, as the show begins to illuminate the cracks within the relationships of the characters – from toxic traits to personal tragedy, domestic violence to living with disability – and many in between.
By the interval, the play has left the audience with a sad feeling of the anchor relationship breaking down, with the use of televisions showing the landlord couple’s wedding day and highlighting how differently things are some years later. It is not until act two until the knife is twisted and this play evokes it’s most powerful scenes as any light relief is long gone in favour of a heartbreaking revelation.
Cartwright’s play is skilful in the way that his characters are so relatable. The first act has sprinklings of light relief throughout, whilst the second takes the audience on a journey through the character’s anguish.
Director Ruth Carney deserves credit for the way she harnessed the power of this production. This challenging play is rare in the way it really makes you feel the character’s raw emotion so strongly. Her use of video to enhance scenes worked well and the music used throughout added the necessary atmosphere at all the right moments. Returning to her home town, to direct for her local theatre is no doubt the icing on the cake.
This production will delight audiences, in a very different way to what they’re used to, for the next few weeks. If you want to be moved strongly by a brilliant piece of theatre, this one is for you.
Two plays the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme until Saturday 22nd February 2020. To book tickets visit www.newvictheatre.org.uk.