The best comedy is like a scorpion – it carries a sting in its tail. The four playlets which make up Michael Frayn’s The Two of Us examine male-female relationships with a combination of affection and exasperation. The savagery which can be inherent in these is most sharply defined in Mr Foot which is virtually a monologue for a wife constantly belittled by her husband. The New Quixote juxtaposes an experienced older woman with her pick-up with whom she intends no more than a one-night stand.
Black and Silver gives us a couple who have made the mistake of repeating their honeymoon trip to Venice – but this time with their young baby in tow. And is the dinner party from hell when a misunderstanding has brought a wife who’s walked out, her louche toy-boy and the deeply unhappy husband all to their friends’ house at the same time.
Director Abigail Anderson and designer Jane Linz Roberts keep the action moving on a cleverly flexible set – this is a touring production which has to fit into a number of non-theatre venues. The two players are both excellent, with Alys Torrance as the mother coping badly with interrupted sleep, the sophisticated socialite who finds her heart suddenly engaged (even though her mind is out-of-kilter with her emotions), the hostess with ever-increasing problems, not to mention two of these, and above all as the wife whose sanity as well as her marriage is being so subtly undermined.
Simon Nock is the clumsy first-time father, the exuberant young man with a passion for contemporary music and a tendency to see everything not just as black or white but as brightly three-dimensional when they are perhaps merely flat. He has fun also as the harassed dinner-party host and the guest with problems and radiates contempt as the supercilious husband. It’s all more than just an evening of great fun – it’s also an evening of very good theatre.