Jim Cartwright's 'Two2' is first class entertainment from the Rossendale Players
As the name suggests, the play is the follow-up to ‘Two’, Bolton playwright Jim Cartwright’s tale of a landlord and lady of a local pub coming to terms with the death of their son.
Cartwright wrote both his plays solely for the Bolton Octagon Theatre, the first in 1989 and the follow-up in 2016. Indeed, audiences at this week’s Rossendale Players performance will be some of the first to see it outside of Bolton.
And please see it. Again, as the name suggests, it features a cast of just two – the supremely talented and versatile Paul Higginbottom and Liz Wood.
Playing the principal characters of landlord and landlady trying desperately to keep their pub afloat amidst soaring bills and falling custom, the central theme of the play is one very much for our times.
But there is much more than that. After what seems a slow and perhaps predictable start to the tale, the play soon comes alive with a karaoke performance first of comedy and then true talented singing from Liz.
Director Steve Gill should be praised for making the audience feel as if they are punters in the pub and thus part of the play.
Centred around the landlord’s increasingly desperate attempts to get his pub thriving again, we are introduced to a collection of colourful characters played by our two chameleons.
A speed dating and quiz night provide fertile ground for hilarity as we are introduced to innocent Toby, vampish Barbara, shy Katie and country girl Hettie, played with breathless aplomb by Paul and Liz.
But there is also real pathos in the form of karate man whose monologue of his difficult early relationship with his father brought a round of applause for Paul.
We also see a moving turn from Liz as Lego the bouncer, a butch lady who dreams of being a ballerina.
My only criticism is that the usually superb scenery on Waterfoot’s New Millennium Theatre stage is very sparse in this production, as is the use of props, but the performance is such a whirlwind it does not detract too much.
The play is running from tonight (Tuesday) until February 4th.