One pub. Fourteen different characters. Two actors.
"If you see nothing else this month...This brilliant pair of experienced actors play a host of characters, switching from one to the other in a series of handbrake turns that will leave you breathless one minute, hysterical with laughter the next and, by the end of the evening, emotionally drained... Is there nothing this pair can't do? I rather think not." Barbara Goulden, Elementarywhatson.com
"There’s a certain quality of silence that sometimes falls in a theatre, when the audience and the action on stage are in perfect harmony, and they’re like one body, each completely engaged with the other. It’s a golden moment, often looked for, but not often found. It was there, often, during the opening night of Jim Cartwright’s 1989 play Two.It's a beautiful play, beautifully played, and it received a rapturous response. I for one will drink to that." Nick Le Mesurier, Leamington Courier.
This production is staged with cabaret seating on the auditorium floor, so that the audience feel part of the pub, which is the setting of the play. Drinks can be brought into the auditorium and there will be small tables. When you book tickets, there will be no designated seats.
TWO is hilarious, yet heart-breaking, and presents a slice of working-class life in a Northern local pub. With a constantly quarrelling landlord and landlady, and the dozen regulars pulling up a stool, all life is present in this pub. It is the heart of communities. It is where people laugh, share stories, celebrate and mourn. Through this range of colourful characters, the rich tapestry of their interconnecting lives is revealed. This is a sharp and touching slice of English life in series of short vignettes that skilfully combines pathos and humour.
Jim Cartwright has written extensively for stage, television and radio with his hugely successful plays (including The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and Road) performed at the Royal Court Theatre, National Theatre, the West End and on Broadway. They have won numerous awards, including the Olivier and Evening Standard awards.
This play is an amateur production by arrangement with Concord Theatricals.
In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. This play has no central diversity message. It can be cast completely neutrally of race/ethnicity. The central story means that the characters should be ideally be playing ages around 40s. The play is written for a heterosexual husband and wife couple.
There are only two characters in this play.....technically only the two of them.
In reality this brilliant pair of experienced actors play a host of characters, switching from one to the other in a series of handbrake turns that will leave you breathless one minute, hysterical with laughter the next and, by the end of the evening, emotionally drained.
The little theatre in Earlsdon has been transformed into an actual bar for this play set in the 1990s and written by Jim Cartwright. We in the audience can order drinks before taking seats at our own small tables and so are in the midst of the action throughout.
It's a short play superbly directed by Helen Withers. Having said that it's intense that personally I would have welcomed a short interval simply to catch my breath before the next roller-coaster scene.
There is just so much to take in as this combative landlord and landlady serve pints before seamlessly sliding off stage only to reappear as some of their own customers.
As the landlady, Cathryn is brittle and sarcastic to her husband. In response he is critical and hateful to her while maintaining an affable front to the crowd.
But within a few minutes of pulling the first angry pints and stamping down to the imaginary cellar, Gareth sheds several years and reappears through the front door as a track-suit wearing Jack the Lad ladies' man, outrageously flirting with members of the audience before the arrival of his long-suffering handbag-cutching girlfriend. It's all so real you really do think the "girlfriend" is some naive completely different woman. And she needs to keep her hands firmly on her handbag because all this "boyfriend" of hers has is ten pence for the jukebox and the ability to disco dance.
Long before the more touching moments towards the conclusion, comes a set piece of palpable menace. The grinning mine host of earlier along with his shrewish "giving as good as she gets" wife, once again slide away from the optics only to reappear moments later in the roles of a submissive, terrified wife under the control of an abusive husband who chumily nods and raises his glass to other customers - that's us in the audience - while hissing venom at her every action. She needs his permission simply to go to the Ladies...and what has she been talking about in there, he demands to know!
Throughout this scene the tension oozes from Cathryn's character, freezing the souls of everyone watching.
Is there nothing this pair can't do?
I rather think not. See this if you can.
There’s a certain quality of silence that sometimes falls in a theatre, when the audience and the action on stage are in perfect harmony, and they’re like one body, each completely engaged with the other. It’s a golden moment, often looked for, but not often found. It was there, often, during the opening night of Jim Cartwright’s 1989 play Two. The proverbial pin could be heard to drop again and again.
Two actors (Gareth Cooper and Cathryn Bowler) play fourteen different characters. At the heart of the play are the Landlord and Landlady. We are their customers, seated pub style at tables. One by one the characters who inhabit this pub pop in for a drink. On the way they might tell us something about themselves, or else we overhear their conversations.
The play is often achingly sad, and sometimes quite frightening, but throughout there is a thick seam of gold in the dry, self-deprecating humour. There are the couples who have stuck it out together, God knows why, except that being together is just a mite more bearable than being alone. There are those on their own, one of whom tells us he talks every day to his dead wife. She’s no ghost, but lives in their teapot and is the only thing that keeps him going.
Up to a point you could say the characters are caricatures. There’s the sex-starved wife who fantasises about big strong men and who bullies her weedy husband. There’s the little boy whose dad has left him outside and has gone off somewhere having forgotten him. There’s the nasty little bully who terrorises his wife but is in turn terrified that she will show him up for what he is. But caricatures only go so far, and these characters go much further.
Running through this everyday scene of small hopes and despairs is the relationship between the Landlord and Landlady. Often it is tortuous, each throwing barbed remarks at the other, their nerves on edge, their teeth bared. But gradually we come to see that they too are bearing a cross of their own grief. I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s the twist in the play and it was so real it brought tears to my eyes.
As for the acting, well, I’ve rarely seen finer. Gareth Cooper and Cathryn Bowler handle the quick changes needed with ease. Never for a moment do they miss a beat. The play and the production treat these little characters with the dignity they deserve but so rarely get.
There’s a difference between sympathy and sentimentality, and this play and production stay well on the right side of it. Watching it somehow made me feel better about myself and to love my fellow human beings a little more, not because I’d laughed at the follies of others, but because the real dignity of everyday life, its narrow gains and little battles won, were shown for what they often are, remarkable acts of courage in the face of existential despair.
It's a beautiful play, beautifully played, and it received a rapturous response. I for one will drink to that.
Nick Le Mesurier
I felt immediately comfortable nursing a pint at a table close to the stage while savouring the setting. We’d been transported back to a northern public barin the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. Oasis werebooming from the Jukebox. Two bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale nestled near the spirit dispensers. Ash-trays had been laid at the centre of proper pub tables of intricate metalwork topped with weathered wood. Wine was £1 a glass, yet some women were still asking for Babycham. More mild ale than bitter seemed to be gushing from the pumps.
For those pulling the pumps, however, bitterness was all too evident. No, it wasn’t directed towards the customers. Forced smiles and false conviviality were handed over the bar with the glasses and tankards. Then landlord and landlady would revert to lengthy silences interrupted by occasional vicious threats.
The reason for the hostility underlying the hospitality was revealed towards the end of this one-act two-hander – shortly before the ‘Two’ stars took a well-deserved bow at the end of a memorable evening.
One was Cathryn Bowler, the other Gareth Cooper. Director Helen Withers had them moving effortlessly from one role to another, changing mood and costume with remarkable speed. Jovial repartee with the audience one minute, vindictive intimacy with each other the next.
The revelatory climax of the play turned out to be surprisingly touching. By that time we’d been given insights into lives that, in most cases, were far from comfortable. Altogether a memorable evening.
Time, perhaps, for a lengthy discussion in the bar next door over a pint and a glass of red for “the missus” that cost a bit more than a quid.