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Two review at New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme – ‘bold, funny and beautifully poignant’

Jimmy Fairhurst and Samantha Robinson in Two at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Photo: Mark Douet

The vignettes in Two provide a blink-and-you-miss-it glimpse into couples’ lives, forging connections between different relationships as a commentary on the complex nature of love.

The New Vic version of Jim Cartwright’s 1989 dark comedy is bold and often funny, though sometimes nuance is lost in all the exuberance. Under Ruth Carney’s direction, the play has been given a distinctly local flavour: Samantha Robinson’s landlady greets the regulars as “duck” while Jimmy Fairhurst’s landlord repeats drinks orders in a Potteries accent.

Lis Evans’ well-designed set provides the look and feel of an ageing pub, though the eclectic mix of tunes from the jukebox makes the time period difficult to place. A circular bar allows for delivery in-the-round while authentic-looking tables and stools hold the costumes and accessories used to transform Robinson and Fairhurst into 14 different personas.

Though some characters remain faintly drawn, others are occasionally overstated and veer into caricatures, such as Fairhurst’s lascivious Liverpudlian, Moth. Elsewhere, however, Fairhurst convincingly captures the slow speech patterns of old age and the terrifying insecurity at the heart of a relationship defined by coercive control.

After such a fleeting look at other interactions, it’s nice to linger in the bar at closing time with the landlord and landlady. Careful silences provide the space to read deeper into the characters’ words and video footage provides a touching snapshot into their life before the bickering took hold. Though the production sometimes lacks emotional depth and subtlety, the final scene is affecting and sincere.

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Brash revival of Jim Cartwright’s two-hander featuring a beautifully poignant final scene