Lancashire’s Jim Cartwright is part of that small wave of northern English playwrights who came to prominence in the 1980s with a shared enthusiasm for putting working-class people on stage in ways working-class people actually wanted to see.
Two, first produced in 1989, is set entirely in a pub run by an unhappy married couple. After an establishing scene (the pub is a hub for local singles), actors Brian Meegan and Kate Raison take turns to slip offstage and re-enter as a selection of the bar’s regulars: a lonely widower; a jealous mistress; a cheapskate lothario nicknamed Moth and his long-suffering girlfriend Maudie.
Each character stars in a self-contained vignette. There is no narrative arc though there is a sustained mood. While Cartwright’s tone is warmly comic for the most part, the stories share a sense of people trapped by their circumstances. Only after closing time, when the drip trays are emptied and the tables wiped down, does the unspoken tragedy at the play’s core emerge.
This Mark Kilmurry-directed production debuted at the Ensemble Theatre in 2017.