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'Two' by Jim Cartwright
Published on Friday, 13 August 2010

3 stars

Diverse Attractions (venue website)
9 - 14 Aug, 7:15pm (8:45pm)
Reviewed by Catherine Meek

Cartwright has attempted with twosomes what Alan Bennett did so famously well with his Talking Heads monologues.  Bennett’s characters were so perfectly inhabited by the likes of Thora Hird and Patricia Routledge, that I can imagine it would be a huge challenge for amateurs to even try to reinterpret them; yet his characters would shine through even the most wooden rendition, so brilliant is his writing.  That’s not the case, though, with Two.  The award-winning production referred to in the advertising blurb starred Graham Fellowes of John Shuttleworth fame; I surmise it was Graham Fellowes that won Two the award, at least as much as Jim Cartwright.

The setting is a pub.  The format is simple enough: two are landlord and landlady, regulars come in twos.  Accepted, the latter is unusual; often this setting would rely on one of a two to portray their life without the other ‘half’ ever setting foot on stage, but in this play both are given lines of their own.  But this required a believable relationship between each set of two characters, as well as believable characters in their own right.  For me, that never came through: this performance relied heavily on costume as prop, and I never truly believed any of the characters were people other than the two actors dressing up, as of course they were.

Interestingly, the focus in this play did not override the fact that the successive twos had each become a symbiotic one, where both played out a part in a duo which had developed out of habit.  Regrettably (and this is a comment on the script as much as the performance), none of the pieces was extraordinary or captured my imagination beyond what they outwardly sought to portray.

What’s more, the characters, recognisable more as northern stereotypes than northern, were all depressing.  Are the regulars of a pub really all leading depressing lives?  A subtext of judgment underlies the characters’ stereotypes, and these are difficult to watch, let alone believe.  I think we’ve seen enough of the downbeat flat-cap north; the north today is an environment of regeneration!

At one hour and twenty five minutes this performance was a tad too long.  Unfortunately, as well, the acting was pedestrian, failing to capture the ordinary let alone the extraordinary.  I’d say this company might have been better off choosing something else to perform, a play with which they might showcase the acting skills they surely have.  As it was, they never really made it beyond caricatures of themselves.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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