There are too many things to see over the next week and a half. But amidst the sun, Shakespeare and the soirees, do yourself a favour and see Two, a beautifully understated piece of drama performed by two exceptional Cambridge actors.
We walk into a pub and immediately can get chatting to Stanley Thomas and Kate Collins, the pair that will be playing every part for this evening. They are affable and helpful, but they still come across like landlords: they will take no shit. Corpus’ lack of bar makes sitting with a drink a novelty, as well as it being a necessity in this small dark space in this hot week.
The script is, perhaps, a difficult one to make interesting for an hour and twenty minutes. The two actors have to play fourteen roles in often very quick succession with not a whole lot of help from tech and design. Yet with the sensitive and tasteful direction of Geraint Owen, each character was differentiated subtly yet maintained enough similarities to one another to make it believable that they were all in the same pub on the same night. The vignettes were poised perfectly in between being representative of a community at the same time as being unusual and engaging. The truly brilliant piece dramatic thinking was evident in the manner of the characters’ speech. Accents, pacing and volume were varied virtuosically by the pair. Highlights in this regard were Thomas’ first monologue, a touching piece about a man communing with his dead wife, and Collins’ silent portrayal of the victim of a jealous and abusive relationship, which came in a particularly harrowing section. Student drama often makes me laugh. Rarely does it make me fill me with such rage and sadness.
The play is also worth seeing given that, although it plays with different accents managed skilfully by the actors, it doesn’t treat the Northern setting as in itself something strange and voyeuristic. In Cambridge it sometimes feels that when we get drama set in the North, it has to be about the North—cue stereotypes like mining, football, and pies. It was nice to see something that set in a not-Southern place taken seriously on its own terms.
The props and set were slightly limited given that this is a Corpus late-show. If done again, it would maybe have benefited from decking out the pub space even more, and making it feel more intimate, vibrant and alive.
But at the end of the day, the play is not only variously fascinating and a marvel to watch a two-hander with so much range, it is also cheap and cathartic. The show affirms human connections of all types in a way that avoids the saccharine and the cliché, and allows us to witness real acting talent flex its muscles.
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