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New Vic Theatre – Two

5 February 2020 Local News Theatre

“TWO” – by Jim Cartwright – Directed by Ruth Carney, New Vic Theatre

REVIEW  by Jane Lythgoe for Hitmix Radio – Photographs courtesy of  Mark Douet

The story of a community and many of the characters that exist therein, set in a Stoke-on-Trent pub serving real local beer, over the course of one night.  It sounds like a ‘big ask’ to fit all of that into less than a couple of hours.

Before the play even begins, the set created by Lis Evans, has already worked its magic, and you are sitting in a traditional local pub.  The landlord is already behind the ‘proper’ bar serving Titanic Beer to the audience – with all of the swagger of a local pub landlord.  The front row seats have pub tables and beer mats, which cleverly merges the audience into the set.

As the show commences, Landlord (Jimmy Fairhurst) and Landlady (Samantha Robinson) work the bar like a couple of pros – engaging with their customers, serving both drinks and all the right banter effortlessly whilst managing to have a surreptitious dig at each other at every given opportunity.  For me this interaction was expertly executed and was the highlight of the show.

In all there were 14 characters in this play – an elderly woman having a crafty half after the strain of looking after her husband all day, an ‘old boy’ talking about visits from his late wife, a very complex couple with a domineering husband and a wife who was about to leave him until she remembered he had the key in his pocket, to name but a few.  Of all the ‘additional characters’ for me the stand out ones were ‘Moth’ the fruitless ‘player’ with one eye on the girls and his long suffering girlfriend ‘ Maudie’ who is desperate to tame him.

Like life itself ‘Two’ has many twists and turns.  As the play progresses and the story unfolds the audience reaction moves between hysterical laughter to ‘pin drop’ silence.   It is a stark reminder that people are often not everything that is seen on the surface and many people face tragic events in their lives that if left to fester can have a detrimental effect on the rest of their lives.  The build up throughout the play to the big reveal was excellent.

Director, Ruth Carney, who is from Stoke herself, made the perfect decision to base the play in Stoke.  There were a lot of ‘Stokie’ words included and of course a lot of ‘ducks’ in the pub!

When the remarkably talented Samantha Robinson and Jimmy Fairhurst took a bow at the end, I wanted to say ‘where are the others – let them take a bow too’!  The fact that all of the very different characters in this play were played so convincingly by just two actors is astonishing.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this play as to make such a complex play so simple to follow and enjoy is a wonderful talent in itself, and yes, it was a ‘big ask’ but you definitely did it!

Two is a must-see production and is at the New Vic Theatre until 22nd February.

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