Review: Two actors and 14 characters in gem of a show

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Nick Le Mesurier reviews Two by Jim Cartwright at the Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford

The Bear Pit Theatre take on Jim Cartwright’s tricky two-hander and turn it into theatrical gold.

The premise of Two is simple. Two actors (David Mears and Lucy Parrott) play fourteen characters within a single set. It’s an ordinary night in an ordinary pub and the Landlord and Landlady are there to welcome you.

If this sounds like the premise for a soap opera, well that’s probably no accident. Like all soaps, this little play peels back the facades that obscure the lives of ordinary people, and shows them to be not ordinary at all.

You might say that the characters that inhabit this pub are caricatures. There’s the fat couple who guzzle crisps and talk about Elvis while watching the TV in the bar. There’s the slimy lothario and his handbag-wielding wife. There’s the abused woman and her nasty husband. There’s the elderly carer worn out by her duties at home; and the widower who finds comfort in the memory of his dead wife. There’s the perpetual Other Woman, always in the shadows; and there’s the sex-starved woman dreaming of a hunk instead of her weedy husband. Then of course there’s the Landlord and Landlady themselves, whose relationship is not all it might seem. Caricatures they may be, but in the hands of a great playwright and two great actors they acquire a status of their own.

There’s a twist in the tale which I won’t reveal. It’ll break your heart, just as it warms it.

* Two ran at the Bear Pit Theatre until October 22. Visit www.thebearpit.org.uk for details of its future productions.