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Dated 22nd June 2012

By David Slater, NODA NW

Andrew Rawlinson (left) and Joyce Fraser (right) being guided by director Janet Spooner (centre) in Two by Jim Cartwright.

NODA Review - Two by Jim Cartwright

‘Two' by Jim Cartwright is a piece which has found a place in the modern repertory along-side his other famous works, ‘Bed' and 'The Rise and Fall of Little Voice', his very individual voice - direct, idiosyncratic, confident, humorous - is particularly evident in 'Two'. Set in a Northern pub in the 1990s, the 'Two' of the title refers to the two performers who take on all the different characters who drift in and out of the pub over the course of an evening and as such, provides a showcase for the breadth and depth of talent of the actors involved: being a two-hander, the piece asks great versatility of the performers particularly given the diverse range of the characters to be portrayed.

Opening the show as Landlord and Landlady of the pub, Andrew Rawlinson and Joyce Fraser threaded their way through the auditorium on the way to the stage, greeting their ‘customers' and exuding a cheery bonhomie: a nice touch. Setting the scene nicely as the argumentative couple behind the bar, Andrew and Joyce were immediately at home on the stage and exuded an air of easy confidence in bringing their characters to life and we were left in no doubt that they were going to make enjoyable company for the evening.

The stage set and lighting initially seemed to be perhaps slightly over-literal and a little spartan but the simple but effective set gave the actors the scope to fill the stage with the depth of their performances in what is after all quite an intimate piece. Background ambient sound helped to create the atmosphere of a busy pub but it was the performers themselves who really drew the audience in, setting the scene superbly before introducing us to a string of well-drawn and very different personalities passing through the pub, each with their own story to tell.

Both performers demonstrated a confidence and versatility and charmed the audience with the sometimes comic, sometimes thoughtful and occasionally touching monologues and two-handers. It was clear that Andrew and Joyce had worked thoughtfully and carefully with director Janet Spooner to create an intelligent and heartfelt response to Jim Cartwright's script. I must admit to finding Cartwright's dialogue occasionally rather arch and perhaps a little mannered, resulting in a jarring mixture of awkward naturalism and unconvincing obliquity (and there is more than a hint of the 'professional Northerner' about some of his writing!) but the production navigated these potentially hazardous waters with aplomb. My particular favourites - and forgive me if it seems too flatly quotidian to suggest a 'favourite bit' in the context of a dramatic presentation of this nature - were the comic couple Maudie and Moth: Andrew and Joyce really made the most of the humour and pathos at play in their relationship, bringing them to life as flesh and blood characters rather than mere ciphers or figures of fun.

Alas, the evening at the theatre was brought to a premature end by the natural drama of the events outside: a deluge of biblical proportions had flooded Todmorden and the surrounding area and a rapid exodus from the theatre was called for, leading your humble reviewer to take flight and battle through the elements in a long and perilous drive home through the rising waters.

My thanks to TAODS for a thoroughly entertaining - if unfortunately truncated - evening: the thoughtful and talented performances on stage and the very warm welcome from the society were much appreciated. I look forward to returning to the theatre under less waterlogged circumstances!