Jim Cartwright

James Firth-Haydon

12 - 14 December 2011


Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm

A sharply, salty, quickfire evocation of the surface gaiety and underlying melancholia of English pub life.

Youth Theatre production


The action takes place over one night in a pub, in the North of England.

A sharply, salty quickfire evocation of the surface gaiety and underlying melancholia of English pub life.

"One little explosion, two litle explosions, have a drink, carry on."

In a northern pub, a landlord and a landlady welcome you to join the colourful collection of people who make it their local. In this public place, you'll glimpse some private moments as we overhear snippets from the bittersweet lives and relationships of the regulars. Share an evening with the actors as they conjure up evry one of Cartwright's distinctive and original tales, exploring the highs, lows, triumphs and disasters that are part and parcel of being one half of "two".


Jim Cartwright, in his first play, Road, and the subsequent huge hit The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, has made a name for himself by capturing the argot and the angst he absorbed in his northern working-class upbringing. In Two, the world-weary and disillusioned denizens of a spit and sawdust local set somewhere in industrial Lancashire, ground down by failed relationships, work, old age and loneliness, presented a real challenge, in terms of age and life-experience, as well as accent, to the young cast assembled by James Firth-Haydon from the Youth Theatre.

The play is essentially a series of vignettes, and has often been played as a two-hander with no interval. Here, quite understandably, the director gave the actors opportunities to play the short scenes, portraying the assorted characters that drift in and out of this humdrum pub. The drawback was that the episodic nature of the piece afforded the youngsters little space to develop a character. The exceptions are the Landlord and Landlady, whose bickering façade ultimately cracks when in a tumultuous climax they are forced to face the loss of their son years before. In the outstanding performance of the evening, Ellie Woodruff-Bryant showed an impressive emotional range, conveying both the desperate flightiness of the gossipy barmaid and the bleakness of a loveless yet co-dependent marriage. Both she and Luke Morphew-Hedges (less clear vocally but with a certain presence) portrayed with precision beyond their years two people in a romantic and professional dead-end.

In the moving climax, Ellie’s tear-jerking scream and her husband’s touching inarticulacy will live long in the memory.

The punters in the pub, all of whose lives we learn about by reference to an off-stage person, offered a more uneven level of performance. Elsie May-Cranie struck a provocative note and showed acting promise as Mrs. Iger, who had a thing for ‘big men’, Sara Pumphrey was sultry and vindictive as a vengeful mistress, while Ollie Pickard as Moth, a wannabe Lothario, Ellie Louise Markwick as his girl-friend Maudie and Harry Willsher as a sad, lonely old man all had good moments. Especially noteworthy was Hattie Mills, in a difficult role with almost nothing to say, browbeaten by her bullying but inarticulate boy-friend. She managed to capture the frightened mumbling responses of a young girl trapped in an abusive relationship. Ettie Caverly and Owen Daughtery were believable as a comfortably happy middle-aged couple, as was Tim Telford as Mr. Iger, who just wasn’t big enough for his wife. Jordan Rory-Shaw, who suffered from first-night nerves and Guilia Landa-Whitfield, as an Old woman completed a full cast who were ably directed by James Firth-Haydon.

Organising teenage actors, as I know from school productions, is a bit like herding cats and James did a very sound job in crafting a satisfying evening for the audience – and it is to be hoped for his young cast.

I saw the play on Monday evening. There were 19 in the audience. Quite frankly, the youngsters deserved more than that. I’ve seen one or two ‘adult’ productions over the last couple of seasons of a lower standard than the fare on offer from the Youth Theatre. It is disappointing therefore that, beyond friends and families of the actors, the week’s productions seem not to have attracted more support from the wider majority of the Club’s membership.

All I can say to those who chose not to come, “You don’t know what you missed”. Congratulations to the Youth Theatre on providing a heartening evening of much promise and some really impressive performances in two challenging and difficult pieces.

Derek Watts