Plays I love to teach: Two by Jim Cartwright

This was a play I was introduced to at a teacher conference several years ago by someone who said it was a brilliant GCSE text. They said it was brilliant, that it had revolutionised their approach to text based performances and had got excellent marks for it. To be honest it was the last bit about excellent marks that got me interested it in!

It is an odd thing, choosing texts for groups, ages and different students. Choose the wrong play for a group and it is all down hill from then on. The wisest words I ever received when I started teaching all those years ago was to make sure you choose the right play because if you do everything else will just slot into place. I have messed up the choice of play so many times! It seems such a lottery to me and I envy other Drama teachers who just seem to get that text choice right every time. How a group of theirs loved performing My Mother Said I Should Never when my group just hated every moment of it and seemed never to forgive me for assigning it to them in the first place.

It was to this backdrop that I had my first taste of Two. At the time, I had a gap for a text at As Level and thought that Two would be a great play to choose for them. It is a great play, with so many different characters, all of whom are very well written with loads of back story, implied or otherwise, for the students to get their teeth into and create realistic and powerful characters with. It runs as a series of monologues and duologues, so it has fantastic performance opportunities as well.

The central story follows two characters simply known as the Landlord and Landlady and the action keeps returning to these two characters. They provide the spine to the piece as the structure moves from duologue to monologue, each time going to a new character, but returning to them to move the piece forward. Taking these two characters out of the focus for a moment, each monologue or duologue focuses on a different character or relationship, linked only by the theme of the nature of relationships and the hard and gritty life of the working class. The duologues and monologues are not linked by narrative, so the role of the Landlord and Landlady becomes partly to bring those characters into the plot but also to provide a pretty intense, emotional and hard-hitting plot of their own.

That’s why I like it so much. There is so much to the piece and there is so much that can be done with it too. On of the advantages of it being a series of duologues and monologues, it is so easy to perform the piece as a class – assigning pairs different duologues and monologues, allowing them to work on them separately and then bringing it together at the end as one production. It is also great for LAMDA pieces, for audition pieces or to prepare quickly as an assembly piece.

It is an awesome text and one of my regulars, appearing somewhere in my curriculum every year.

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