Only days remain to catch this wonderful play in Derby. Two Trains Running is a play written by August Wilson, a prolific, award winning playwright who was born in Pittsburgh, USA in 1945. This, the sixth in a ten part series called The Pittsburgh Cycle, which won several awards in it’s own right.
Inspired by the Black Power movement, Two Trains Running captures a life of a small group of characters, centred around one cafe, and their day to day struggles in a deprived part of 1969 Pittsburgh.
The first thing that strikes you is the remarkable set by Designer, Frankie Bradshaw. Such a detailed, high quality set looks every bit the tired, working cafe. Her design places the audience in the cafe, and windows and a door at the front of the building allow you to see the action outside, as the characters do, in certain scenes. It is extremely effective, even to a mysterious red door that sits in the rubble, above.
7 characters perform this beautiful, conversational script that is bursting with strife, suffering, hope and success against the odds.
The story revolves around a Cafe owned by Memphis (Andrew French) and ran day to day by Risa (Anita-Joy Uwajeh). All the characters represent different aspects of the society at the time. We meet West (Geoff Aymer) who is a rich undertaker and Sterling (Michael Salami) who is a young man, not long out of prison, who struggles to find work yet is so engaged and enthusiastic. Holloway (Leon Herbert) is an older, wise character who provides the group with words of wisdom through their struggles and Wolf (Ray Emmet Brown) is the hustler who always wears a smile.
One character does more to ground the audience, even more than the others. Hambone (Derek Ezenagu) is a man of few words. You meet him as a man with some form of additional needs. He complains throughout that he did not receive the ham he was promised for a day’s work across the road. His small, poignant role has such a huge impact on the play, which is one of many themes threaded so expertly through this outstanding play.
The play captures the struggle of the black population of Pittsburgh at the time, the highs and lows, and each character is played with outstanding quality throughout. The cast not only suits the show but it is of overall high caliber – you would most likely next see one of these actors on TV or a new high profile Netflix series. It is superb casting and the cast ride a huge wave of emotions for three hours each performance (including interval) – but it never feels long. For a long running time, you leave wanting to see more. Wilson’s writing is so interesting, so detailed and so easy to connect to that it feels both right and enjoyable to be with the characters.
The show is poignant, but Wilson has combined this story with hope and even provides us a happy ending. It sweetly delivers a message of possibility and leaves you with a warmth but also a responsibility that is in all of us to make sure that we always take care of all of our neighbours where we can.
Sadly this tour currently plays it’s final venue, Derby Theatre, where it performs until Saturday 26th October. If you are able, you must go to see this show before it closes. To book tickets, visit the Derby Theatre Website.