Friday, 2 July 1999

Two by Jim Cartwright, 2 July 1999

Dolman Theatre Company
Beckett Theatre until July 17, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

English playwright, Jim Cartwright, was responsible for the extraordinary stage version of the film, Little Voice and there are echoes of its style in his earlier play, Two. It has the tenor of Northern England's working class people, their drinking holes and habits and even their fraught relationships.

Dolmen Theatre Company, the company that staged another two-hander, Brian Friel's Winners, in 1998, produced Two. The script, which is the greatest strength of this production, is a series of two-shot scenes in a Lancashire pub run by a bickering couple. They are the only pair we see more than once.

Cartwright creates a parade of bizarre, tragic, comic and poignant characters who inhabit the entire spectrum of dysfunctional relationships.

We see the mousy, abused woman who cannot look up without being accused of  flirting by her manipulative, jealous, emotionally abusive husband.

Then there is the converse of this pair in the demanding sex-pot wife who fantasises about wrapping her thighs around enormous, hulking men only to be reminded that she is married to Superwimp who cannot even beat a path to the bar for two lemonades without cringing.

One lovingly written couple is the sweetly eccentric pair who arrive wearing puffy, sensible parkas and proceed to watch an old movie on the pub television. They describe themselves as "fat and old". She weeps over Elvis and fears another breakdown. He dreams of being a fat, old, movie star.

The problem with this production is that the performances of all these delightful characters are less than three-dimensional. Dominica Ryan and Paul Dawber, with director David Myles, make a valiant effort but there is something important missing from the recipe.

There is too little differentiation between the playing of the diverse personalities and physicalities, particularly from Ryan who has too limited a vocal range for so many roles.

The comic delivery and timing is uneven and scene changes are too slow. The production lacks dynamic range and the emotional layering is superficial even in the final scene of despair and pathos between the publicans. It is a good effort but the production does not meet the quality of the script.

By Kate Herbert

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