Vancouver East Cultural Centre
A Belfry Theatre Production
Starring Nicola Cavendish and Lorne Kennedy
February 3 - 13, 1999
Written by Jim Cartwright
Directed by Roy Surette
by Roxanne Davies
One of my (many) guilty pleasures is to pour a second cup of tea, settle down in a cozy chair and watch Coronation Street on Sunday morning. Being neither British nor living in close proximity to a pub, I often wonder what the appeal of this long running English soap holds for me. It's been said that the show appeals to many because it presents the closeness of a real community where everyone cares about their neighbour and everyone's business is well known to the other.
So an evening of theatre revolving around an English pub struck a chord with this reviewer. I also looked forward to seeing Nicola Cavendish live. Although I had seen her on TV in the powerful drama, The Sleep Room, I have never had the opportunity to see her live. She is called one of Canada's best loved actors for a reason. This talented lady is a dynamo on stage. I was surprised to see how diminutive she is in real life, since she always seemed so much larger in still photos and on TV.
After a successful sold out performance in Victoria, the play TWO by Jim Cartwright has come to Vancouver to the cozy set at the Cultch. The story revolves around a night in a north English pub and the lives of the two people who run it and the odd characters who pass through it.
All the roles are played by Nicola Cavendish and Lorne Kennedy. Through clever pacing and unbelievably quick costume changes, they play a variety of fourteen characters. Whether as an old lady who comes in to get away from her infirm husband, while singing the praises of her butcher or the brow beaten girlfriend of a vicious boyfriend, Cavendish was able to ignite each role with her own particular magic. Shapely legs swinging in white go go boots, she had the audience howling with laughter as the Elvis-loving Lesley opposite Lorne Kennedy's corpulent Roy, whom she lovingly calls Fat Fat Palomino.
Lorne Kennedy had his work cut out for him keeping up with Cavendish and in many ways he was successful. With his flexible body language and elastic facial features, he went from shuffling old man talking to the ghost of his departed wife, to a smarmy, fringe jacketed Casanova with his fingers in his girlfriend's purse.
Since it was the comic sketches that most appealed to the audience, which were met with laughter and applause, the more sombre social commentary stood out in bas relief, heavy and ponderous in their seriousness. The entire action of the play is set against the on-going fight between the barkeep and his wife. When the landlady howls in pain when their secret is revealed, it sent a shiver up my spine that was at odds with the hilarity just moments ago.
Set designer David Roberts who created the wonderful set of Atlantis at the Vancouver Playhouse, transforms the tight space at the VECC into a multi-level bar, with traditional dark wood and etched glass. Lighting designer, Alan Brodie must be applauded for his clever use of lighting to deflect the attention of the audience as the two actors hurried backstage for quick costume changes. And I still smile when I think of Cavendish as Mrs. Iger, the buxom Scottish lady swinging on a stool, reciting an ode to big men, the back drop turning a sensual red to match her feverish recital, while her dinky little man scurries about trying to buy their drinks.
Director Roy Surette does his best with the odd plot structure of the original play, allowing his actors to indulge themselves in the wacky characterization. All in all, it is a terrific play to showcase the talents of these two fine actors. Although the roles sometimes tumbled into caricature, the audience couldn't help but tumble after them, laughing all the way.