TAPestries 2018 Double-Bill Review for The Arden - James Burgess - 29.1.18.
Show One - ‘Two By Ten’.
Based on the play ‘Two’ set in the eighties by Jim Cartwright, which tells of the everyday comings and goings inside an ordinary, working class, northern pub, this is a contemporary retelling with ten performers, each acting as one of the characters - mostly in pairs - hence the title. There’s the landlord and landlady (where everyday’s a secret struggle - hidden out of view of the customers), the long-suffering classic couple Moth and Maudie, who are forever trying to take that next step. This is heard entirely in mime, with a voice-track over the top, making it all the more both innovative and inventive.
The performers gel incredibly well as a company, working together seamlessly. They’re incredibly effective in their approach to minimalistic staging, choosing only to use masking tape to signify any sets or props - such as tables, chairs and the bar area. In fact, a live feed is also used to show the actuality and humdrum of a typical local pub.
Other highlights include the pub regular of the elderly lady character, accidentally selecting the wrong track on the jukebox, revealing a side to herself that’s as far away from an old lady as you can imagine, and a final very touching scene between the landlord and landlady - revealing the true depths of their tragedy.
The fourth wall is frequently and wonderfully broken, and there’s excellent use of much audience participation too. It’s a prime example of what can fundamentally be achieved, with just actors and a space - drawing upon Peter Brook’s famous words to the audience, as to what constitutes as theatre: ‘All we need are me, you, and some chairs - and we have our scene’…
Show Two - ‘Remembering Blue Roses’.
Another contemporary reworking of an entirely different kind, ‘Remembering Blue Roses’ is a striking alternative version of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, still retains the original’s themes of lost love and the limitations of conformity.
As always with Williams’s work, his protagonists are often flawed with desperation. This is the case with the character of Laura, torn between the tradition of a stringent family upbringing, and the promise of an adventurous new life with her long lost love…
A study in second chances and unrequited feelings, it uses simple, very effective techniques (namely subtle blue lighting and chorus), which display an almost spiritual bridge, between the worlds of fantasy and reality. Played at times as if life we a perpetual recording on a never-ending loop, it examines how life can be changed, remoulded and deconstructed through regret, choice, and different outcomes to our circumstance. This is achieved through the use of repetition, superb performances of stock characters (the conflicted girl, the very earnest, sincere boy, verses the domesticity of the disciplinarian mother), and a particularly clever motif, featuring the haunting use of the soundtrack: ‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)’. A profound, very original adaptation, with themes that are as universal as they are timeless.