Paul Johnson | 20 Feb 2014 12:25pm
One of the golden rules in amateur theatre is big casts. For various reasons (more subs, more friends and family buying tickets, more opportunities for members so everyone gets a go…) generally if you want to direct a play on the amateur stage the larger your cast the better. The Tower Theatre, however, is by far the most prolific amateur theatre company in Central London – with an incredible 19 productions in 2013. With so many plays on the go – this writer for one is grateful that they have the space for Two to be performed as the showcase for two talented performers that it is, rather than split it up into 14 separate roles.
For it is the central conceit of ‘Two’ – set in one evening in a pub somewhere in the North of England – that two performers portray Landlord, Landlady and regulars alike. As such the play is a fascinating representation of character – what makes us ‘different’?
It is a credit to director Collette Dockery that the performances here are so nuanced – the actors have been kept well away from the path to caricature and all should be commended for it. Andy Murton and Julie Arrowsmith are confident performers, and their physicality was masterful – particularly when Arrowsmith as the Landlady helps Murton as a small boy onto a barstool – this was not someone pretending to be a child, this was someone genuinely inhabiting the form of a small boy, and it was a pleasure to watch the physical embodiments, and the shifts between roles.
Physicality comes into play in more than one way in ‘Two’, as all props – whether glasses, pumps, optics or packets of crisps, are mimed. The skill on display here was especially adept, and led to one of those wonderful moments, found in the best amateur shows, when you forget for a while that what you’re watching is not a professional production, but one put on people who are doing this purely for the love of it.
There were times however when the mime was so good that it felt a little that the performances suffered for it, in the sense that focus was so fully concentrated on the mime that there wasn’t quite as much as there could be left for the emotion. If an actor could just hold a real glass, they could perhaps lend more to the emotion and tone in their voice. (The instruction to mime all props is the author’s however, not the directors – so to quibble here is a tad harsh.)
A minimalist set worked to better offset the mime, and with little music and even less sound – this did have the effect of making what was meant to be an extremely busy pub a little empty – but this may of course have been the intention – the loneliest place of all, of course, being in the midst of a crowd.
One of the attractions of a play such a ‘Two’ is that even though it is (presumably] set in the time it was written, the situations, emotions and characters are pretty timeless – Moth’s inept chatting up of a nonplussed invisible beauty just one moment that called instantly to mind a plethora of Arctic Monkeys lyrics. The universality of grief, loss, comfort, control and the seemingly innate ability of some of us to hurt the ones we love are on fine display here – and the doubling up of characters just underlines this – again huge credit to the director and cast for avoiding the easy distinctions of character, instead focussing a little deeper.
So, a hugely talented cast and a skilful director make for an extremely worthwhile evening at the theatre; the two performers truly hold the cast in the palm of their hands (particularly during an exceptionally uncomfortable scene during which you could hear a pin drop) and do the outstanding language of the play tremendous justice. Do catch this production if you can.
- : admin
- : 18/02/2014