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Two review at Derby Theatre – ‘a toast to love in all its forms’

Jo Mousley and Sean McKenzie in Two at Derby Theatre. Photo: Robert Day Jo Mousley and Sean McKenzie in Two at Derby Theatre. Photo: Robert Day

What’ll it be? Oh, a pint, a packet of peanuts and a great big slice of Jim Cartwright please, mate.

Cartwright’s 1989 pub-bound play Two follows hot on the heels of his 1986 debut Road, similarly presenting a microcosm of working class Northern life in ripe, ribald language. The twist with Two is that its cast of local lads and crumpled bar flies are all played by one pair of performers, who flit from role to booze-fuelled role throughout.

Sean McKenzie and Jo Mousley both rip into their roster of reprobates with gusto. Here’s an Irish wastrel, obsessed with chasing skirt and leeching cash off his ditsy Scouse girlfriend. There’s a flat-capped old-timer, sweetly reminiscing about his long-departed wife over a Guinness, and there’s a doddering old dear, taking her daily respite from her disabled, dependant husband.

There’s darkness – a misogynist control-freak abusing his downtrodden wife – but there’s lightness too – a puffer-jacketed couple adoringly reminding each other how fat and old they are. And at the heart of it all, there’s the landlord and landlady, sniping away at each other behind the bar, their relationship a hollow husk sustained only by barrel changes and bickering.

Julia Thomas’ rich production lurches like a drunk from scene to scene on Ali Allen’s detailed set, which becomes a functioning bar at the interval, and Cartwright’s play emerges as both a beery toast to love, in all its forms, and, in 2018, a rose-tinted requiem for a dying British institution.

Oh, by the way, it’s your round.


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A boozy, beery revival of Jim Cartwright’s portrait of working class Northern life and love