Lancaster University Presents: TWO

The LUTG take on Jim Cartwright’s slice of life Northern drama: Two

The Lancaster Unviersity Theatre Group (LUTG) has moved from strength to strength.

Their earlier production of David Greig’s Dunsinane was so impressive that I jumped at the chance to review Two, Jim Cartwright’s Northern drama. The play follows the lives of pub regulars over the course of an average day, or so the audience thinks. The date becomes significant later.

In Greig’s version two actors play the twelve characters that frequent the pub (hence the name), but the theatre group have adapted this so that four actors play the different characters. Clare Fletcher (Land Lady) and Adam Keenan (Land Lord) embody one character each, while Hannah Cooper and Jamie Lonsdale play various oddities.

The set is comprised of a bar and two bar stools which the locals of the pub sit on to perform their monologues. The audience is close to the action. The arrangement of chairs around tables instead of the traditional rows of seats is a great addition to the relaxed atmosphere of a pub. This placement allows various characters to weave in and out of the tables, speaking to the audience members. Lothario Moth (Jamie Lonsdale) points at several girls, exclaiming ‘You’re beautiful!’ before his girlfriend Maudie (Hannah Cooper) enters the pub.

Director Chad Bunney said that he included audience interaction because Greig’s version was made to be inclusive.

Lighting is used well. It functions much the same as a fade to black might in a television programme: as darkness descends upon the Land Lord, light is shone on the elderly woman (Hannah Cooper). As one monologue ends, another begins.

After the interval the easy going mood changes.

Roy and Leslie (also played by Lonsdale and Cooper) are far from the comical Moth and Maudie. As they sit down for a drink in the pub it becomes clear that she is not drinking. Or looking up. And barely speaking.

The pair play the couple well: Lonsdale is steely-eyed and commandeering, while Cooper is meek and malleable. I even saw her eyes shimmer. Their relationship is appalling because of how relentlessly realistic the scene is: Roy makes her ask to use the toilet. Roy tells her to never tell him no. And in the split second when Leslie looks up from her shoes Roy asks, ‘Who are you looking at?’

The Land Lady and Land Lord fight tooth and nail throughout. Their bickering is akin to Kat and Alfie in EastEnders. Cleverly, they are used to frame the narrative: the audience assumes that their story only stretches as far as having odd ball customers, when the opposite is true. The tension between the two reaches its peak in the last ten minutes when, as they lock up for the day, they are confronted by their shared past.

‘Do you know what day it is?’ the Land Lady asks.

The mystery is revealed, and what follows is an outpouring of tension and grief. Fletcher and Keenan convey their anxiety throughout the play by criticising each other, with added eye rolls and tuts. Their argument in the denouement is surprising: no longer the Land Lord and Land Lady stock characters, there is far more depth to these two than meets the eye.

With each different character the actors transform themselves on stage: there are stiff joints and dance moves and screaming fights. My only criticism is the sometimes wavering accent, which goes from adequate to excessive. As a whole, Two is another notch in the LUTG’s belt and an impressive directing debut from Chad Bunney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lancaster University Presents: Dunsinane

Dunsinane centers around the discovery that not only is Lady Macbeth still alive, but that she has a son

Dunsinane is David Greig’s take on the aftermath of Macbeth, and the LUTG’s (Lancaster University Theatre Group’s) performance is Gail Breslin’s take on Greig’s script.

Having killed Macbeth, Malcolm (William Evans) ascends the bloody steps to the throne only to discover that Lady Macbeth (Rose Briggs), called Gruach in this version, is still alive. Dunsinane centers around the discovery that Gruach has a fifteen year old son who is the rightful heir to the throne.

I have given suck, and know

How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.

Lady Macbeth

Gruach urges her son to flee to the safety of the woods as Siward (played by Josh Hawley) and his troops invade.

Instructed to secure Malcolm’s place on the throne, Siward mediates between the headstrong Gruach and the tyrannical Malcolm. Hawley plays the part of Siward with poise and control: he is a man focused on restoring peace, and this goal exudes out through words and his composure. The briefest flicker of an eyelid conveys Siward’s irritation, and these minute details are the first sign that there is an underlying anger to Siward, a brilliant foreshadowing on Hawley’s part.

Rose Brigg’s plays a convincing Gruach: her version of Lady Macbeth is headstrong and proud, and her anger is tangible in the moments where her son’s position as King is questioned:

The moon could rise at daytime and we could call it night.

The sun could rise at night time and we could call it day.

My son would still be king.

Tender moments abound.

Interspersed between acts of violence and scenes of bloodshed are pockets of realism in which soldiers one and two (Isaac Rolfe and Jordan Summerfield respectively) sit on a log in the forest and talk about nothing really, but this mindless chatter creates a sense of intimacy amidst the blood shed. Greig brings the audience swiftly back to the 11th century when, having arranged the bodies of his fallen comrades on the forest floor, Solder one frowns and says, ‘He looks pretty much the same as me.’

The Boy Soldier’s (Connor Gould’s) dramatic monologues are addressed to his mother, and are humorous while subtly hinting at the divide he experiences as an interloper in a strange land. At the beginning of the first scene the Boy Soldier exclaims, ‘I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this but Scotland is cold!’ and swiftly moves on to say that in the villages around the castle there is only ‘cold air and the eyes of women.’

Gould conveys the soldier’s hope and melancholy through an assortment of emotions and a booming voice that show he is destined for the stage.

As the second act commences the audience is faced with an abruptly changed Siward: far from the peacemaker he had previously shown himself to be, the Earl of Northumberland turns murderous, enraged by Gruach’s devious nature. All pretense of creating unity is replaced by Siward’s  attempt to eliminate the rightful heir to the throne: Gruach’s son.

The LUTG’s  production of Dunsinane is a triumph of precise casting and adherence to Grieg’s vision. At just £9 per ticket, the production is a bargain for any seasoned theater-goer who appreciates a passion for performance.