Two by Jim Cartwright (Theatr Clwyd)

I arrived at Theatr Clwyd’s “Clwyd Room” with a mix of apprehension and intrigue about me. It’s not often I go to the theatre when the performance is not being held “on stage.” In fact, I think the only time has been when I went to see/immerse myself in The Great Gatsby, and I had moral support for that one!

The Clwyd Room is a space where I’ve normally watched stand up comics perform, it’s not one of the actual “theatre” spaces. Tonight it had been transferred into a Lancashire pub, ten round tables had been placed along one wall for people to sit around as though they were sat in a bar watching the regulars come and go.

Two is written by the award winning Jim Cartwright  who has also given us The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and Road. Immediately you know you’re going to be in for a night of dry wit, broad northern humour and the moving melancholy of ordinary human life as they get mixed together in the boiling put of the traditional British pub; where all forms of human life reside!

Two was written in 1989, but a lot of the issues raised are still prevalent in today’s society. Bill Snell and Pam Courtenay play the landlord and landlady at Mr Cinders Cocktail Bar in Car Boot Theatre Company’s production of this emotive play. Car Boot Theatre Company is an amateur touring group who perform largely in theatres and village halls in North Wales. On the whole they tackled the production well, but they didn't quite give justice to Cartwright’s text.

The sound of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” blares out as we’re transported back to the 1980’s; as the lights go down to Joy Division’s haunting classic “Love Will Tear us Apart” you immediately get the sense that there’s going to be some heartache along the way. The landlord and landlady know all their patrons and make everyone feel welcome, laughing and joking with them, whilst in the background they show nothing but contempt for each other as they switch from bickering and bantering the night away. They might not like all their customers, but they still greet them like an old friend, and this extends to those brave enough in the audience to sit at the tables near the front. (Shy types, beware!) It is through these pieces that Snell and Courtenay do quite well – and I admire anyone that can manage a “conversation” when talking to imagined customers who obviously can not reply! It is this that draws you into their world, which makes you interested in the characters that pop in for a pint, and makes you realise there’s more going on with the landlord and landlady than first noticed.

This two-hander play features fourteen other diverse characters, often played by the same two actors in professional productions. In this production, there is an actor to play each character, so they really should be able to become comfortable with the traits of who they are performing as. An old lady shuffles in for her bottle of Guinness, a hush descends as she starts her monologue, lamenting the long years she has served in her marriage, and the quiet respite and solace she finds in having a drink by herself after a days shopping. Gwyneth Dillon’s approach to the character was spot on, but she just spoke too quietly, that coupled with the whirr of a fan behind me meant that much of her emotive speech was lost on the wind.

Moth and Maudie were an interesting couple…she hanging around the womanising Moth as he struted around for the ladies in front of her, even getting phone numbers for dates with them! All she wants is for him to marry her so that her life is complete. It showed the contrast of how little she thinks of herself in comparison to how much he loves himself.

The tortured souls pass in and out and we uncomfortably shuffle in our seats as Lesley is tortured physically and mentality by her abusive boyfriend Roy. Peter Thorne played Roy well, making us laugh at him at the start and then become more aghast at his domineering behaviour, until shock and repulsion took over.

There were lighter moments too, especially the two bobbled hatted customers who just come in to the pub to watch TV and eat crisps – they were an excellent uplifting moment. These little pieces of human life were simple snapshots that etched looking into a mirror at normal human existence. But the play only works if the actors embody the characters. Lines spoken without conviction, stilted deliveries and whispered confessions were all distractive and the power of the underlying story between the landlord and landlady was somehow lost amidst it.

I certainly enjoyed my evening, and it brought the play to my attention, so I’ll certainly look out for a professional production in the future. Car Boot Theatre Company should be applauded for the hard work and dedication shown to a difficult piece of theatre, and I was pleased to see that even though the production wasn’t perfect, it didn’t loose its audience at the interval. Something all concerned should be proud of.