Friday, 31 March 2017

TWO at the Ensemble

 “First night in here? Well, you’ll get used to us. We’re a lively pub. Not going to ask you what you’re doing here, never do, that’s one of our rules”
The current show that has just opened at the Ensemble, magnificently directed by Mark Kilmurry and terrifically performed by Brian Meegan and Kate Raison is Jim Cartwright’s Two . Lancashire's Jim Cartwright is one of the group of northern playwrights (with John Godber and Willy Russell) who rose to prominence in the 1980s with a shared enthusiasm for depicting working-class people on stage in ways working-class people actually wanted to see .Kilmurry has slightly adapted the play and set it in regional Australia in 1989  instead of Northern England and it works wonderfully . Alicia Clements’s set design for the pub is splendid -  a rather imposing Victorian style bar with smudged mirrors and green and brown leafy carpet on the floor. Matthew Marshall's lighting is an excellent accompaniment. The soundtrack of early '80s jukebox hits also sets the atmosphere, at times ironically, sometimes wittily.
After an opening scene setting the stage so to speak (the pub is a gathering place for local singles), Meegan and Raison in bravura performances take turns to slip offstage and re-emerge to offer a selection of the bar's regulars in a series of vignettes , sometimes quirky, sometimes sad .There  is a sustained mood but no full length narrative . It's the sort of pub where everybody knows your name, and even if they're not really glad you came you'll still be greeted like an old friend The play is at times warmly humourous but we also get a sense of people trapped in life’s circumstances.
We see the bitter hissing and bickering between the landlord and landlady, while under cover of jovial banter with the customers , learn how both of them think they run the pub and the other isn’t really doing anything , and at the end at closing time there is an intense dialogue where a family tragedy is searingly  revealed . (The landlord has a terrific monologue where he recites back the huge order of a buck’s party. )
There are some wonderful monologues and dialogues .There’s the old man , a gentle and sad lonely widower ,who takes quiet comfort in the memory of his late wife . There’s the old wife temporarily escaping from looking after her disabled husband..
The scene between Roy , a creepy , obsessive  super control freak and Lesley his wife who is on petrified eggshells was intense and quite scary.
Fred and Alice however, have a bitchy bickering but satisfactory relationship, based on mutual insults,food, watching TV ,  and an Elvis obsession.
A glorious creation is Mrs Iger who has a ‘thing’ for large men and observing the butcher .Her husband however is a downtrodden henpecked little man – which is an issue.
Meegan as Moth the drunk who thinks he is Mr Wonderful and tries to chat up all the women, telling them they are fabulous and stars, and with what he thinks are killer dance moves, is awkwardly terrific , with the audience in stitches, and Raison is splendid as Maudie his long suffering girl friend..  
The last visitor is not a really a customer, but a little boy who has been forgotten by his father – beautifully played by Meegan .
At times poignant, sad and funny this will warm the cockles of your heart . Another pint please ….
Running time 90 minutes no interval
Two runs at the Ensemble March 24 – May 6 2017