By Sasha Meaney
Set in an Australian regional pub in 1989, TWO is a two person show that drops in on the lives of 14 characters as they try to escape their lives with a quick drink and pack of chips. Written by Jim Cartwright, and directed by Mark Kilmurry the show debuted with the Ensemble Theatre in 2017. This year it has been revived for a national tour, meaning I had the pleasure of seeing it at Riverside Theatres Parramatta.
TWO is ultimately about pairings of people (how meta), and the routines they fall into that breed dependency for better or for worse. The tension created by playing private scenes in a public space is an experience as familiar to the audience as the classic Aussie pub it’s set in. It is an old fashioned bar, decked with a green, noisily patterned carpet. A trophy like display of bottles sits on the top shelf and faded beer slogan stickers frame the back mirror that hasn’t been cleaned in years. The set’s grimeyness and nostalgia is pitch perfect with the tone of the play: consciously humble and hard working with a hint of hopeful sentimentality.
We open on the married landlord and landlady, who remain our anchor throughout the play. They are busily serving drinks for the night, perfectly synchronised to the other’s next step. It’s reminiscent of any classic studio movie pairing ala Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers but with a lot more cussing. The almost overly rehearsed movement felt strange, but beautifully contrasted to when the characters lost their orbit in the final scene and their tragedy was revealed.
The characters that make their way through the pub are all played by the fantastically cast Brian Meegan and Kate Raison. Meegan is a chameleon. As he moves through his character each so believable and engaging that audience members felt it necessary to speak back to him. As Moth they laugh and flirt with him and then as a violent husband I hear someone threaten to come down and punch him. Raison brings so much strength to the women in the show who are each fighting for change. Her growing strength gave way to despair and vulnerability in the final scene where she left me in tears.
Knowing that the actors are a real life couple added an extra layer of interest to the show. I tried to keep it out of mind but it made it even more astounding to see how they nailed so many different dynamics in pairings. It wasn’t just the characters that changed but the underlying tone of their relationships were unique and consistently believable. The ability to morph themselves so quickly owes a huge debt to the ingenious work by set and costume designer Alicia Clements. The quick transitions appeared seamless with well timed and tailored sound and lighting.
It was a show of perfect size and length. The writing’s pacing was impeccable, providing us with rotations of light and shade that felt truthful but never repetitive. The two actors dance around timeless themes, with a playful dose of recognisable Australian peculiarities that audiences will eat up. TWO was a fantastic choice to take on tour, and I highly recommend finding its stop closest to you here.
Photo Credit; Clare Hawley
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.