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.