Us Two presented by Lucinda Borrell
What is it?
Written by Lucinda Borrell and directed by Therese Ramstedt, Us Two is Borrell’s debut full length play exploring the perspectives of two women who find themselves on opposing frontlines of the #MeToo movement.
What is it about?
Things get complicated when investigative journalist Lizzy (Karina Cornwell) receives a phone call from her old friend from university, Beth (Kara Stanley) and decides to join her for dinner. While most university-friend reunions might involve a few cocktails and funny anecdotes from the good old days, for Beth and Lizzy, there’s some serious debate over morality, what makes a man or a monster and a court case that has torn their lives apart.
How did it make me feel?
I love the concept of this. I love the complex weaving of contrasting opinions coming out of #MeToo discussions. I love that a piece of theatre is grabbing hold of the concept of finding someone you love on the opposite side of the #MeToo battlefield. I love the all-women cast and crew and explorations of female friendship and the fact that the only male character is distinctly absent from the stage. Borrell’s concept is relatable and important but, with only twenty hours of rehearsal and a largely donated set, a great concept and great performances by Cornwell and Stanley wither into the background of a production that needs some polish.
Us Two really makes you consider your political stance. Beth is a homemaker and Mum who has spent the years since graduating university bringing up her two sons in a life of luxury until her ‘public figure’ husband is accused and convicted of a string of sexual assaults. Sitting opposite her friend Lizzy, the journalist who broke the story, we hear Beth trying to comprehend the man she married as the same man multiple women describe as a monster. There’s big ideas and discussions of good and evil, of power and gender but all this complexity is poised over a checked tablecloth in – we assume – a London restaurant that, with Beth’s shades and designer aesthetic, feels more wannabe Paris courtyard than big red buses and Trafalgar Square.
Cornwell’s performance as Lizzy stood out to me as particularly powerful; Lizzy’s desperate desire to find some molecule of Beth’s empathy for the women who have survived her husband’s assaults is palpable and intense. While those in the audience who consider #MeToo a success of the feminist movement will probably identify with Lizzy’s position, she teeters on the edge of that good old ‘metropolitan elite’ criticism and risks coming across as condescending to anyone who isn’t either a member of the press or an activist.
I’m also not sure how I feel about one of the characters genuinely smoking in an enclosed theatre. Particularly when a fake cigarette isn’t that hard to come by.
Overall, while Borrell’s concept is impressive and interesting, the production needs a little more refining and maybe a change of set beyond the slightly budget Parisian restaurant. I look forward to seeing where this show progresses and I would certainly be happy to return after a little more varnish.
Us Two is playing at The Space Arts Centre, the Isle of Dogs until the 25th January 2020.
If you like our reviews and want to support this blog feel free to buy any of us a virtual coffee here!