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The Liverpool Royal Court Theatre

Author: Jim Cartwright
Director: Bob Eaton
Producer: The Liverpool Royal Court
Cast Includes: Eithne Browne, Neil Caple
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins.

Second only to church, people only ever really talk about how they’re feeling in a pub and pubs, like church, attract all sorts with each customer having his and her own very individual story to tell.

Image: Promo image for 'Two'.

That is the basis of Jim Cartwright’s play, Two, set in a busy bar of a Lancashire pub with all the characters involved played by just two actors. Of course for this to work, the actors need to be good and in Eithne Browne and Neil Caple, The Royal Court have struck gold, turning the play into a master class of stagecraft as they change from character to character with unsurpassable skill, yet manage to react with each other with beguiling ease so making their characters instantly recognisable.

From the moment the bickering landlords settle behind their pumps, the audience is lost in their world of petty arguments that boil up as the play unfolds into something so much more heart breaking.

Eithne Browne, whether portraying a feisty middle-ager with a love of “Big men” married to a Mac and bow-tie wearing drip or a diminutive and terrified wife, is quite simply outstanding, pouring her heart and soul into each person she plays with laughs and tears aplenty.

Whereas Neil Caple, when playing the troubled landlord, a leather-clad wannabe womaniser and a lonely old man who thinks only of his late wife and so sits alone in the corner with his half of mild “for a change”, is astonishing in his ability to strike all of the right chords all of the time.

As the play moves forward, so the mood becomes darker. Yes there are still laughs - such as the young man who believes Elvis died of a “choked bum” because of all the junk food he consumed - but this is so much deeper and three dimensional than that and allows the actors full rein of their extraordinary talents.

Ending on a note of hope in the manner of Eugene O'Neill's classic Long Days Journey Into Night, with the next day looming and the problems of those involved only partially solved as the lights go out, both men and women in the audience were openly sobbing thanks to the power of the performances on stage.

Billy Mears’s set – a bank of beer kegs, a wooden topped table and two chairs – is delightfully simple and used to full effect in a play that is in turns thought provoking, funny and sad, making Two easily one of the best to have been staged in the city this year.

Image: Radio Merseyside LogoLISTEN to Chris High on BBC Radio Merseyside talking about 'Two'.
Tuesday 13 Nov 2007

Image link: Royal Court Theatre  official website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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