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Two, Royal Exchange, Reviewed

Nicola Mostyn reviews the dramatic duet between Justin Moorhouse and Victoria Elliot

Published on January 30th 2012.

Two, Royal Exchange, Reviewed

WRITTEN over twenty years ago by Farnworth-born playwright Jim Cartwright (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Road), Two is a much loved, and much performed two hander, a beautifully constructed piece of work in which the actors who play the main roles of Landlord and Landlady – in this case Justin Moorhouse and Victoria Elliot - also reappear as the punters who drift in and out of the worn-out pub where the entire play is set. 

You’d have to be an extremely good actor to display this connectivity whilst also convincing your audience to care deeply about those characters. The play didn’t quite achieve this

Each sparky duo and poignant monologue tells its own complete story, capturing the bittersweet reality (and often delightful surrealism) of working class northern life, whilst the sadness that lies beneath the landlord and landlady’s fractious relationship is gradually revealed. 

Apparently Director Greg Hersov knows Cartwright personally, and this shows in this sympathetic production; the set is rich in detail with its worn out swirls of flowery carpet and chandelier constructed of empty glasses, but simple enough to let the script shine. And there’s a real understanding of Cartwright’s ability to find the music in the northern colloquialisms and mine the oddness of the everyday. 

As the landlady, Elliot played the layers well, her lively flirtations with the customers not quite concealing the underlying pain. Her transformations – into an intimidated young girl, a frantic, sozzled other woman, a cheery, fat, bobble-hatted Elvis addict – were immediately convincing, allowing the audience to take each character to their heart. 

With his experience as a stand up, Moorhouse was in his element as the landlord, expertly bantering with the customers (the slightly nervous front row of the audience). He was a delight, too, as Moth, the ladies man with one eye on all the other women in the pub and the other eye on his girlfriend’s purse. Great dance moves, too. Likeable and warm, the comedian got the play off to happy, hilarious start. 

But Cartwright’s comedies are many-layered. His characters are funny and engaging, yes – from the fatties who nurture an enduring, quirky love, to the prim woman who secretly lusts after big men to the little lad whose dad has left him outside the pub with a bag of crisps and then forgot him - but there’s always the hint of something darker underneath and for me, these more poignant aspects of the play didn’t hit the mark. 


Two productions frequently use well known soap stars – possibly because it requires a soap actors’ ability to shift gears quickly, moving from comedy to tragedy in a sentence, or a facial expression.  Enjoyable as Moorhouse’s performance was, it was a stretch too far for him to deliver the depth needed with so many characters.

The programme attempts to sidestep this saying: ‘We are not trying to disguise our landlord and landlady when they conjure up and become the other characters; instead we want to develop the connectivity between each persona.’ 

I love that idea, but you’d have to be an extremely good actor to display this connectivity whilst also convincing your audience to care deeply about those characters. The play didn’t quite achieve this. 

Interestingly, one of Moorhouse’s best moment was as the abusive Roy. Though it took the tittering audience a while to get the measure of this menacing character, by playing to his strengths and portraying the man as slightly pathetic and emotionally manipulative, as opposed to an outright, frightening bully, Moorhouse gave Roy a more complex personality than I’d seen in previous productions of Two.   

Despite its limitations there’s real joy and fun in this production. It’s a wonderful play, and a great way to spend an evening: you’ll laugh, you probably won’t cry, but you will go home feeling like you’ve just spent an evening in perhaps the most fascinating boozer in town. 

Two runs at the Royal Exchange until Feb 25. Click here for the Confidential special offer.

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 1st 2012.

On the contrary - there was an awful lot of crying the night I went.

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

Well, in my opinion Moorhouse's acting did not suit the part that is Roy, his comedy background did not take to the character at all, and I did not experiance the empathy I have had for the girl in previous productions of Two.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

I agree

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

Me too!!!

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

As do I!

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

lol xx

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

well i fort he waz gdgd xxxxxx

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

me too!

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

rofl copter xD #,

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

da academy at scotton hall really enjoied it lolza xx

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

oh shaaaa aaap! ;)

JakeMarch 6th 2012.

LOLZZ at deez comments, Nahh was canny good leek!! ;D x

AnonymousMarch 6th 2012.

^^^ that wasnt mee! :L

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