Snippets of life ebb and flow through the doors of a fraying pub before meeting the blunt end of trauma in Jim Cartwright's absorbing play Two. Brought to the Southwark Playhouse by deaf led company Deafinitely Theatre, the play invites the audience to be drawn into the lives of those who have stepped into this bustling hubbub and the married couple who have retreated within it.
Marked by a bricked bar, grubby red carpet, bar stools and cricket bats pinned to the walls, the pub is managed by a married couple. From the moment they met outside as underage teenagers, to their wedding reception, the couple have mapped out their entire lives in the pub. Now they watch, interact, mirror and merge with the lives that have inhabited their threshold, preventing them from facing an earth-shattering trauma that occurred seven years earlier.
Deafinitely's artistic director Paula Garfield plays the congenial landlady, with Matthew Gurney by her side as her husband. The couple are flagged by the dynamic Jim Fish and Sophie Stone, who play members of the community; from the demanding Maude and the fervent lothario whose cringe-worthy lines run out of his mouth faster than the beer out of the tap, to the elderly gentleman who still feels his deceased wife's warming presence hovering around him.
Using a combination of BSL (British Sign Language) and English, the cast pour in and out of the lives that have graced the comforting hearth of the pub. Director Andrew Muir keeps the play multi-dimensional by ensuring the switch between BSL and English is far from formulaic or static and I often found myself watching the sign language over the actor who was speaking, searching for the earliest expression of the words being dropped into the space.
With the cast never leaving the set, turning instead to corners to change costume and persona, the production however, loses pace and the bustling edge of the hub, becoming sluggish and drawn out. The pub is also, supposedly, on the verge of closing down; a victim of increasing beer tax and falling prices in supermarkets, but there's very little sense of that in the play.
The supressed effects of the trauma that the landlord and landlady of this pub have evaded eventually erupt to create a passionate and touching closing scene with resonating warmth and feeling.