By Jim Cartwright directed by Calum Grant
Review of Two by David Riley
What a delight to see Frome Drama emerging from pandemic gloom with several productions this summer. There’s a wealth of experience in the group and it burst forth on the Merlin stage this week.
Calum Grant is a man with a long list of productions in his CV. His grasp of the shape of things, the mood and the overall effect of a production is solidly reliable. Selecting Liz and Terry through auditions on Zoom must have been quite something and it resulted in the complementary casting that made us believe in this troubled couple. It was soon clear that the characterisation of the various protagonists was undertaken by the actors with gusto. What a pleasure it is to be offered such a rich script rendered with complete conviction and sustained by a tight and clear-sighted production team.
The context of a busy pub is one that we haven’t quite forgotten, and the actors launched into it with all the familiar clichés, bad jokes and tensions to be found in every hostelry from here to John O’Groats. The energy was there from the beginning in the bonhomie and the bickering. Quite soon we knew that something about the date was nagging at the Landlady and (apparently) being ignored by her husband. Then we saw the actors gradually reveal their regular customers through the 14 roles that the playwright demands that they adopt at the drop of a hat. Loneliness and conflict oppress them. Revealing their turmoil is not only in the writing, it demands that the actors adopt a new persona in a trice. Each characterisation has to be sustained for some minutes during which some troubling truths emerge. Then, just as abruptly each has to revert to their central role. All of those characters still resound in my head, but Roy’s coercive control of Lesley caught the chilling nightmare of her subjugation to perfection, and it sits in my memory right at the top. Liz and Terry showed us something quite exceptional and frighteningly relevant.
The capture of the violence and tenderness, the grief and reconciliation in the play while observing Covid rules was difficult but achieved with complete clarity through mime and separate tables – innovations for our time well thought through and executed with finesse.