Two

Jim Cartwright
Maverick Theatre Company
Tabard Theatre Pub, Chiswick

Claire Louise Amias as the wife of the abusive husband played by Greg Snowden Credit: Glen Arkadieff
Claire Louise Amias and Greg Snowden Credit: Glen Arkadieff
Greg Snowden as the landlord and Claire Louise Amias as the landlady Credit: Glen Arkadieff

Jim Cartwright’s 1989 play Two conjures up the mood of communities in Northern England devastated by Thatcher’s government. There is an overriding sense of loss, grief and emptiness pervading the pub and its many characters whose monologues and occasional dialogues are performed by the actors Claire Louise Amias and Greg Snowden.

Maud, “the old dear”, tells of her waning strength “at the end of my days” where she still has to daily carry downstairs her crippled husband. The wife of the elderly man named Fox is dead, but he tells us she is still with him and soon he will join her. A young lad arrives crying for his father.

The roughly dressed couple wearing bobble hats who claim they are very overweight pop in to watch television they are barely interested in, and soon leave without even buying a drink.

The place it seems is crowded to such an extent one bloke spends an hour trying to buy a drink while his wife tells us she “loves big men”, something her ham-fisted partner isn't.

They are at least civil to each other, which is more than can be said for the abusive husband who keeps warning his nervous wife not to look at men and then hits her anyway.

Being a pub, it has its share of lads eyeing up the women. On the wall is a poster claiming “beer makes you see double and feel single”. One bloke in a green holiday T-shirt tells many of the women in the audience they are beautiful as he tries to get off with them but admits, “I’m losing my flair, my knack.”

The arrival of his partner changes things slightly, especially when he develops a severe back cramp. No sooner has he offered to marry her if she helps him than he is telling another woman she “is beautiful”.

Almost every couple seems like a sparring match and that goes even for the pub owners who first met in this very place as kids, held their wedding reception there and now restlessly snap at each other between selling drinks. By the end of the show, we will know what's on their mind.

The bleak sadness of the play is lightened by a lyrical and often humorous tilt of the language and the performer's energy. However, I didn't quite believe in their depiction of the central relationship between the pub owners. In theory, that is something the director can easily deal with.

This thoughtful, entertaining Maverick Theatre touring production of Two is well worth seeing.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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