The Lion and Unicorn
Review by Philip Fisher
Under Robert Miles' direction, Michaela Ford and Tom MacKenzie give very slick performances in the sixteen parts that make up Two. This play from the late 1980s dissects life in a northern town through the medium of the local pub.
The play starts with a kind of prologue showing snapshots of the unhappy couple who run the pub as they put a brave face on things. They do this in flashes of light accompanied by music from Blur. In fact, the soundtrack and lighting, managed by Yolanda, are an integral part of the production.
In a structure reminiscent of Schnitzler's La Ronde, a wide assortment of characters appear for relatively brief periods giving a quick insight into their lives. Generally, they inject humour into the public house atmosphere. Sometimes though, there is sadness or in one case, threatened violence.
The actors must have great fun as they energetically show off their skills, swiftly changing from character to character. Although they are both relatively young, one of the strengths of these performances is the ability to act as senior citizens convincingly.
The landlord and landlady hold the play together and in brief gaps between the appearances of other characters develop their own story of love and hate. They also build up to the very surprising denouement. This shows Cartwright at his best as, having led his audience along with a series of light sketches, he knows how to provide a true kick in the tail.
It is inevitable that the quality of a production like this will not be wholly consistent but the actors do a good job and the overall quality is very high. It is littered with many absolutely hilarious moments throughout the hour or so of its duration. The bantering between landlord and landlady including at one stage, a passionate embrace for a beer pump, speak volumes and ring very true.
Similarly, the relationship between a wife who loves muscular men and her seven-stone weakling of a husband is amusing while that between a bullying husband and his meek, terrified wife brings out the best in Michaela Ford.
Tom MacKenzie's versatility is also very impressive as he drifts between young and old, weak and strong effortlessly.
The professionalism of this Fringe production is far greater than one has any right to expect and provides a very pleasant hour of humour laced with something much deeper. This is a tribute to both the quality of the play and of the production team.