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3 October 15 words: Lucy Manning
Rachel Ross' directorial debut - wor it a good craic?
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image: Nottingham Playhouse

In the Neville Studio of the Nottingham Playhouse, a rehearsed reading of Jim Cartwright’s Two packed out the space with two sold out performances. For a directorial debut, that’s effin good going. Rachel Ross is the woman behind the production, directing an abridged version of the play as part of her placement with Nottingham Playhouse, following her success with the Regional Theatre Young Director scheme.

While it may have been her first time working directly with professional actors – in the form of Nottingham Television Workshop graduate, Gail Kemp, and theatre boff, Steve Colin – there is little evidence to suggest a rookie has held the reigns.

The play depicts working class, eighties life in a pub up north. It’s everyone’s local, and very much forms the pillar of the community. The time is set, rather loosely, with a soundtrack including Don’t You Want Me Baby that opens the production with a proper mover and shaker.

The first characters we meet are the bickering landlord and lady. A brilliantly choreographed scene behind the bar sees Kemp sneaking vicious asides about her husband to her invisible customers, with Colin reprimanding her for drinking the stock. What appears to be your typical, squabbling couple who engage in a bit of argy bargy from time to time but are glued together by a genuine love for each other, turns out to be something rather more sinister.

A host of locals enter, one after the other, played by each of the actors. Gail switches seamlessly between playing a kooky older lady, a young woman involved with a wannabe ‘Jack the Lad’ and gives the stand out performance with her portrayal of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. Steve was not gifted with warm characters, but it would have been nice to see a little more variation between them. His portrayal of a lost seven year old in the penultimate scene, however, sees the six-foot-something capture the truth in a character so far from himself.

For a first try, this version of Two was, in all, bloomin’ marvellous. Sparks of brilliance were dotted throughout the read through – for which scripts were barely referenced – with glimpses into what a full blown show might look like both exciting and engaging the audience with equal measure. Big up to our Rachel. I’m expecting big things.

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