As a northern theatre student that finds themself surrounded by southern artists the majority of the time, I cannot tell you how incredibly refreshing it was to watch Two by Jim Cartwright, and directed by Tom Gibson, last week. Focusing on working-class life in a northern pub in the 1980s, Cartwright’s pub is a space filled with failed aspirations and unfulfillment.
Theatre Group’s production consisted of a cast of (mostly!) northern performers, which gave the script an enourmous sense of credibility. I really felt as though the cast understood where Cartwright was coming from when he depicted northern town life within his work.
“We’ve been here bloody years. In fact, we met outside this pub when we were kids… We had our first drink in here, we courted in here, we had our twenty-first’s in here, we had our wedding reception here, and now we own the bloody place.”Landlord, Two by Jim Cartwright.
For starters, this production’s set was beautiful and incredibly realistic. Borrowing real elements of a local Leeds pub, The Packhorse, Two’s set designers (Ell Johnson, Talia Simmons and Charlotte McRae) have to be congratulated for their stroke of genius when coming up with this. This set design went hand-in-hand with Gibson’s decision to direct Two immersively; I have to say, I genuinely felt as though I was looking in on an actual pub, which shows just how well these creative decisions worked. After noticing how happy members of the opening night’s audience were when the show’s characters picked them out and started a conversation with them, I really hope that the cast recieved the same kind of response every night, because this kind of encouragement definitely had a positive impact on their performances.
Although perhaps a rather generic comment, the thing that made Two so great was that it was genuinely incredibly well-acted. In my reviews, I often pick stand-out performers. However, this production made that task impossible, and I can only congratulate the entire cast on their immense storytelling, considerate acting processes, and morale. Even as an audience member, you could tell that this was a cast that cared about eachother and the work that they were presenting.
On the whole, I thought that it was a huge shame that the play was only an hour long. I wanted to stay inside that beautiful northern bubble for at least a couple of hours longer, however I suppose that Cartwright and Gibson’s ability to create such a complex and realistic world in such a consise way can only be commended!
With an emphasis on the uneasy balance of the self and the other within human relationships, Theatre Group’s production of Two illustrated the dynamics of being in a couple by storytelling over a pint at the pub. Cartwright’s loveable (if not a little chaotic) characters, through Gibson’s clever direction, are captured in all their innocence, arrogance and transparency. I would watch this show again and again.
Words by Morgan Hartley.