Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Venue: The Spaces @ Royal College of Surgeons
Two. Two people, man and wife, landlord and landlady. Serving drinks two-by-two to the twosomes in their pub. Stories to tell – in twos.
Pubs are struggling the length and breadth of Britain at the moment. Hit by a combination of the credit crunch, higher taxes on alcohol and the inexorable rise of the supermarket as the dominant supplier of booze, they are closing at an alarming rate. It’s a great shame for, as well as being an excellent place to socialize (especially since the ban on smoking came in) they are also a rich source of material for those who love people watching.
Jim Cartwright has obviously taken his research very seriously in assembling the material for Two. Quite how many hostelries he frequented remains a closely guarded secret but it must have been a goodly number given the wonderfully eclectic mix of people he has assembled as company for us fellow pub goers. Interwoven between sessions where mine host and hostess are conversing with their clients we meet Moth, a man drawn to every flame yet utterly dependent on Maudie to support his slothful existence; then two elderly pensioners (separately) and, in keeping with the theme of the piece, a succession of odd couples. Mrs Iger simply adores big, big (with the emphasis on the “big”) men but has married a mouse of a husband. Roy has got Lesley completely under control – she has to ask for permission to go to the toilet – or has he? And look at those two Elvis freaks over there in the corner of the pub watching TV….go on, look. They’re both a tonic short of a gin aren’t they.
Whilst some of the characters are more like caricatures, they all represent people that would seek solace in a pub. Adrian Ross-Jones and Jilly Breeze work very hard to ensure that there is differentiation between each of the many and varied roles they portray and in general they succeed. Being relatively young themselves though, they forget that most of those over 70 don’t talk with such speed and energy as did their septuagenarians but that’s just about the only point when this amusing and, at times, thought provoking show wobbled.
They were at their best as mine host and hostess where there was real depth, feeling, passion and pathos in their performance. Charming to their customers and, in the next syllable, sniping at each other like puff adders they exposed the harsh realities of running a pub – the long hours, the stresses, the shallowness of their existence. The bitter was never off when these two were conversing. And when you learned the dark secret that they were both carrying you see why they are fighting to hang on to their livelihood, their marriage, their sanity.
This well staged production was another of those decent shows you find at the Fringe outside the major venues, in this case at The Spaces at the Royal College of Surgeons. You’d really like there, nice atmosphere, good little snug bar and they serve a really decent pint. It’s just opposite the Festival Theatre as well, couldn’t be better placed. Cheers. Oh, and last orders are 30 August.