The design of the on-stage boozer for Jim Cartwright’s Two at Derby Theatre had to be faultless for the actors to be able to work their magic.
The gasps from the audience as they first glimpsed the phenomenal set said it all – they had nailed it and we knew we were going to be in for an incredible evening.
That was confirmed the second the landlords played by Sean McKenzie and Jo Mousley burst full-throttle into the bar.
The couple, who played all 14 of the artfully composed characters who pass through the pub, were superb with chameleon-like changes, and pitch-perfect comic timing. Quite how they did so much so seamlessly I am not sure. It seemed impossible.
All human life was depicted via Cartwright’s artfully composed characters from the hilarious would-be Lothario and his long suffering girlfriend to the chilling tormentor husband and his abused wife.
Meanwhile the squabbling mine hosts with their painted-on smiles slowly revealed the true depth of their festering antipathy and inherent loneliness.
The play built up to a forceful conclusion that was emotional, raw and moving.
This production, directed by Julia Thomas for Derby Theatre, is astonishing, funny and sad – and is another triumph for artistic director Sarah Brigham and her fantastic team.
Jim Cartwright was in the audience last night and I would put a bet on the fact that he will have seen few performances of a higher calibre since it was premiered in 1989.
Two can be seen until March 24 and if you really want to be part of the action you can book an on-stage experience seat. For tickets click here.