THEATRE REVIEW: “Two” at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, to February 25th

"Two", at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

"Two", at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

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I’VE seen Jim Cartwright’s cleverly constructed play “Two” before and enjoyed it. .

I was looking forward to seeing how Greg Hersov would direct it in the round. I was not disappointed.

Amanda Stoodley’s design has a large circular bar at the centre and an impressive chandelier constructed from all kinds of drinks glasses hanging from the dome. The drama is a two-hander centred on the story of a landlord (Justin Moorhouse) and his wife (Victoria Elliott). There is an underlying conflict between them that isn’t resolved until the dramatic, moving finalé, but their story is interspersed with little dramas revolving around the customers in the pub, all played by Moorhouse and Elliott.

Each vignette is a story in its own right, the wife escaping from her sick husband, the old widower thinking of his wife, Maudie, and her philandering boyfriend, Moth, and Mr and Mrs Iger, the cowed wife and the jealous abusive husband, and a series of other believable characters, mostly humorous or poignant.

This production works so well because of the skills of the actors. Justin Moorhouse shows his experience as a stand-up comedian by playing the audience skilfully and drawing them into the action as if we were all in the pub together and Victoria Elliott creates a whole roomful of people.

Everything is left to the imagination but the acting is so powerful, I was convinced I could see pints of lager in their hands! Cartwright’s dialogue is realistic and yet heightened in places with an almost poetic quality. We all bring our own experience and feelings to the theatre and I was struck this time with Cartwright’s subtle understanding all some of the ways in which different people cope with bereavement.

This production will make you laugh, but it will also bring a lump to the throat. Finally I must give a word of praise to the backstage crew who do wonders with quick costume changes so that the various characters enter and exit smoothly and credibly.

Box office: 0161 833 9833 Website: www.royalexchange.co.uk

PIPPA MUNRO HEBDEN