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Theatre Royal Stratford East Presents

 

Two Women

 

by Martina Cole

 

Adapted for the stage by Patrick Prior

 

Directed by Ryan Romain

 

Theatre Royal Stratford East

 

19 Feb - 20 March 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couzens

A review by Alexandra Carey for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Martina Cole writes in the programme of Two Women “So many things make me angry, so many things touch me on a daily basis, make me sad, make me despair of ever seeing justice done in this country for the people who really need and deserve it”, and this new play, an adaptation of her bestselling novel of the same name is all about just that. Justice. And its’ opposite oppression. And appositely criminal justice.

The play has the feel of a pop-up Eastenders - a connection exaggerated by the appearance of several erstwhile stars of the show and the theatre’s location. Don’t let this fool you though - the boldly drawn characters and knowing comedy stereotypes are as far from the gripping, truthful and shocking story played out by the central characters as the east is from the west. This is high drama on an epic scale but hinging around a very simple central question: will justice and criminal justice see eye to eye? This is one side of the domestic violence story and - while it is the one we hear most often, it’s still not told enough. The comedy and larger-than-lifeness allow the graphic and disturbing moments space to breath, space to jump out and grab us by the throats as they rightly should. Ryan Romain’s direction treads the balance of this knife edge skillfully and, whilst entertaining us, is always lurking just around the corner with a reminder of the constant fear and threat the woman at the play’s centre feels.

That woman is Susan, played with consistent energy and grit by Cathy Murphy. She is the woman convicted of battering her husband to death and whose appeal we follow during the course of the play, whilst learning the story of her horrifically abusive childhood and marriage. Murphy propels the show like a dynamo, somehow finding Susan’s unceasing energy and determined love for, and dedication to, her children, alongside her coarseness and blunt charm. In fact, all of the cast do a great job with a long and relentlessly energetic production, and the clunky continually shifting scene’s and timeframes of the play are well dealt with for the most part, making it slick and watchable.

Martina Coles tells us how she is shocked by women who are unable to empathise with those who cannot, for many reasons, get themselves out of an abusive situation. It seems that Two Women is definitely a call to open our eyes and not just look, but also see; to understand that this has happened and, for all sorts of reasons, continues to happen.

Of course, this is only one side of the story and it is very clear cut - Susan really is a good mother, wife and friend as well as a brave and caring person. I don’t think there should be any doubt of that, and none is left in the production. Her husband, Barry, is pretty much through and through the villain but the glimpse Susan catches of him in her imagination in the play’s final moments - of how he seemed to her when she first met him and of what might have been, both between them and in him - reminds us that we’re dealing with human beings and all the nonsensical messiness love brings. This is not a simple matter - not one but countless stories - but it does need dramatising. This production is certainly worth seeing and very thought provoking.

 

 

Theatre Royal Stratford East

7.30pm (Matinee 13th March 2pm)

Tickets: £8 - £22 (£10 - £22 Sat Evenings)

Box Office: 020 85340310 or www.stratfordeast.com


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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