This Two is very good company

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Two - The Dukes, Lancaster

When Jim Cartwright’s two handed play based in a northern pub was first staged in 1989 it seemed as much like a series of out takes from tv soaps as a lasting piece of theatre.

Twenty two years since that debut and a full 10 since this theatre first revived it, Two has the feel of a retrospective fly-on-the-wall documentary of a vanishing part of the UK’s social fabric.

It’s unlikely when Cartwright created his look at life he could have predicted the smoking ban, extended licensing hours and rising alcohol duties resulting in daily pub closures.

Director Louie Ingham and designer Alison Heffernan have worked wonders creating a traditional bar in the theatre’s studio space – real ale is served before the play and in the interval and the audience doubles as additional customers observing the action.

The rest is left to Kieran Buckeridge and Ella Vale who play the married couple whose life has revolved around running the pub they first met in and attempting to hold their disintegrating relationship together.

They also play all the pub’s regulars – an all-human-life-is-there microcosm of still recognisable late 1980s society including a old lady seeking respite from her ailing husband, an all mouth and trousers flirt, a possessive bully, an overlooked other woman and small talking Elvis fan midlifers.

To switch so many roles so convincingly with little more than a change of top and accent is a lot to ask of anyone but after only a few feeling-their-way moments this real life married couple manage it so convincingly it’s easy to forget that they are actually carrying the play between them.