If 2Graves got two raves I’d be very surprised; even one might be pushing it for this distinctly disappointing opener to yet another new era at the benighted little Arts Theatre by Leicester Square.
Paul Sellar’s Cockney criminal monologue of a son’s revenge for his father’s stitch-up in a darts contest is performed by Jonathan Moore in a black T-shirt and black shorts, revealing chunky thighs. His hair is long and dank, his expression gone and blank. He resembles an underpowered vegetarian version of Meat Loaf.
The verse is an un-scanned doggerel of mixed quality, mostly low, and the jokes, such as they are, reside merely in the shallow waters of hackneyed idiom and random East End topography. The whole experience is like Steven Berkoff on an off night, without a wind-up tension of any sort, or the genuine Berkoff sorcery, and with some oddly placed plot cadences that fail to kick home.
Moore’s Jack sees his father lose all hope of “making it” as a semi-professional on the darts circuit in a match that is rigged in favour of Big Ronnie, pub king of Cheam. When his father tops himself, he follows the villains to a lock-up in a Bow pub, where he gambles a purse he doesn’t possess and ends up five grand in debt to one of Big Ron’s sidekicks.
Things go from bad to worse at the race track, where a big bet fails, the horse is knackered, a riot ensues in the hospitality tent and Jack finds himself banged up in the clink. Fair do’s, some of the descriptive passages both in the darts match and the at the race track are fairly vivid and occasionally funny. But this is low-level stuff, really, and the encomiums heaped on it at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival could only have come from people who don’t get out and about all that much.
There’s no arc or dynamic to the revelations of incident, so that the ending comes too suddenly, with a double murder and a banal conclusion that “revenge is bad for your health”; so if you must seek it, dig two graves – one for yourself. I’ll make a point of remembering that next time I work up a lather of resentment against Ken Livingstone and his transport policy in the capital.
- Michael Coveney