Live theatre returns to Eastbourne

Two by Little Voice playwright Jim Cartwright is the next offering at The Grove Theatre (Eastbourne Library, Grove Road, Eastbourne, BN21 4TL).

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 6:05 am

It will be performed by Steve Scott, who runs the venue, and by Heather Alexander, directed by Dominique Gerrard (July 9 and 10, 7.30pm).

They are promising a bittersweet comic drama set in a northern pub, sometime in the 80s.

The two actors swap multiple characters to share stories and trade blows as pints are pulled and relationships dissected.

“Each vignette skilfully combines pathos and humour,” Steve says.

“Sharp-talking comedy makes way for bleak urban poetry, followed by dark tragedy.

“Two looks honestly at the joys and stresses of everyday working lives.

“It’s basically a snapshot of the lives of the people that frequent this pub, the different characters that we meet, all their life stories, and it is all held together by the landlord and the landlady.

“You see all these people with their struggles and their little quirks.

“You get a glimpse into their lives, all during the course of one evening in this pub up north.

“We play about seven different characters each, all different ages, but it is all connected by the landlord and the landlady who we see several times during the course of the evening.

“When we first meet them, they are bickering. They are a bickering couple. But they are both very good at what they do. You can imagine them appearing on Coronation Street or in a Victoria Wood sketch. They are quite cantankerous towards each other, but they are very friendly towards the people that come into the pub. But over the course of the evening, you realise that they have a back story. There is a tragedy. There are little hints here and there.”

Differentiating the different characters demands different voices and different costumes.

There are some quick changes off-stage, often just a jumper or a hat or a cardigan.

“I play an old man and he has got a flat cap and a cardigan.

“But they are not caricatures, these people. They are real people.

“You have got to make them 3D. You have only got a short amount of time to play them, and there is a temptation to play them as caricatures, but they are not.

“A lot of them talk about their struggles. The old man reminisces about his wife who has passed away. He can bring her back to his mind and that gets him through the day.”

For the actors: “It is about knowing what is coming next. You don’t want to put the wrong hat on!”

As for the venue generally, Steve is pleased with the way things have gone since the resumption: “I hope I am not massively tempting fate, but things have gone well.”

With social distancing, they can get 50 people in – compared to a usual capacity of about 130.

“It is tough financially, I won’t lie to you. But we can make it work.

“You just have to play it right. We have got the bar takings. We have found with the cabaret seating that people feel comfortable and they tend to order more drinks, so there is that to off-set it.

“And we are lucky that the running costs of the theatre are not huge.”

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