After the long silence of lockdown, the Millgate has re-opened with a confident and convincing production of Jim Cartwright’s Two. This clever and ingenious play is set in an unnamed pub, with a crowd of mostly unnamed imaginary regulars, minimal staging, some suggestive period music, no props whatever – and, of course, just two actors. Luckily Kate Davies and Mark Rosenthal are more than equal to the challenge. They alternate between being landlord and landlady behind the bar and a series of oddly assorted customers in front.
All human life, or at any rate all pub life, appears in these exchanges. The devoted and the not-so-devoted couples, the lonely and bereft, the deluded, the fantasists, the oppressive bully, the Other Woman and, occasionally, some beer-induced contentment. Marriage does not, on the whole, get a good write-up. One solitary drinker’s description of “the pig-weary and bewildered couples that have stuck, stuck it out” is not perhaps the best advertisement for all those years of monogamy, though another wife, an Elvis fan, begs her unglamorous husband, “Will you call me Priscilla tonight?” so maybe there is still some hope.
The landlord and wife do not sound too relaxed either. They do their best to serve out bonhomie and charm to the punters, while their private endearments for each other such as ‘piggo’ and ‘bitch’ suggest that their own marriage may be feeling the strain. He’s obsessed with the night’s takings, while she’s steadily drinking away the profits.
All this could make for a bleak and gloomy evening, but Kate and Mark throw themselves into the parts with such crackling energy that it is a thoroughly entertaining performance. There’s lots of physical comedy as well as the black verbal variety, and their exits and entrances in their ever-shifting roles are always slickly managed. Credit is due to SPY (Saddleworth Players Youth) Theatre and the Costume Store Team for some imaginatively outlandish costumes.
I wondered at one point where all this parade of different pairings was leading, but the play has a strong, unexpected and shocking conclusion (cashing-up in more senses than one) which explains so much of what had gone before. This change of mood is very well handled by the actors and by producer Verity Mann, whose eye for detail is clear throughout the proceedings. Rehearsals had for a long time to be managed on Zoom – a very productive response to the lockdown – but the eventual transfer to the stage was handled with obvious success.
So the Millgate is back on top form.
Review by John Rigby, member of the Saddleworth Players play reading group
Two’ by Jim Cartwright will be performed at the Millgate Arts Centre from Saturday 25th September to Saturday 2nd October 2021. Tickets available from TicketSource or call our telephone booking line 01457 874 644 (phone booking charged at £1.80).