Two men meet in a pub for a drink. The premise of Roddy Doyle’s Two Pints is remarkably simple, yet from it he has spun a tale packed with humour and humanity that tackles masculinity, class, loss and grief – as well as the crucial question of whether Nigella Lawson would make a good carpark attendant.
Having been staged in pubs on its Ireland tour, Two Pints arrive at a specially built, working bar on Live Theatre’s stage for its British premiere – it even sells pints of Guinness during the intervals – before transferring to an actual pub, the Peacock, as part of Sunderland Stages.
The setting (and Kate Moylan’s authentic design) provides a suitable degree of intimacy for what is essentially a series of conversations. Under Caitriona McLaughlin’s empathetic, tightly focused direction, Liam Carney and Philip Judge are beautifully nuanced. They share an easy, convincing rapport as two old friends putting the world to rights (under the unsurprised eye of Ronan Carr’s silent barman), their observations overshadowed by family illness.
In a piece that originated as a series of Facebook posts by the author, Doyle exhibits his usual knack for scalpel sharp, blisteringly funny dialogue. The topics meander from fruit and veg to marriage to whether the Germans are in charge of the afterlife and the merits of Angela Merkel, but beneath this genial rambling it’s crafted with real precision. The result is a show as smooth as a well-poured Guinness: it manages to combine laugh-out-loud lines with genuine heart and depth.