Us Two – Space Theatre, London – Review
by Eamon Somers
Dates – 21 Jan – 25 Jan 2020
Us Two – By Lucinda Borrell
“All this ‘they’re lying, they’re lying’ malarky. It’s about protection. It’s easier to believe that strangers are lying than that someone you love is capable of such horrific things.”
Lizzie is an investigative journalist who has pursued a story about the sexual abuse activities of a male showbiz personality which culminates in him going to prison. Beth and Lizzie have been friends forever but grew apart long before the article Lizzie wrote about Beth’s abusive husband; whose innocence Beth clings to, despite the testimony and evidence.
During the trial, Beth loudly and publicly defended her husband, and just as loudly vilifies Lizzie’s motives, mainly to the tabloid press. Now, the two women meet in a restaurant. Lizzie hoping for a reconciliation and an opportunity to help her misguided old friend, Beth searching for evidence to help with an application for her husband’s retrial.
The entire play is the back and forth argument between the two women, a proper dialogue between two people who have little hope of agreeing. Beth has children who need their father. She loves her husband, is financially dependent on him and has never experienced anything but kindness from him. Why would she listen to Lizzie urging her to believe the testimony and accept the impossibility of forgiveness or reconciliation with a serial sex offender?
I thought this was a most engaging piece of theatre. Both women come across as utterly believable, just like the situation itself. A Brexit-like debate in which both sides become more entrenched in their views as time goes on, with Beth’s emotions pitted against Lizzie’s logic. It was very easy to watch and believe. There were moments of humour in the play, but on the night I saw it, perhaps out of an awareness that to laugh might be disrespectful, I seemed to be the only one that gave in. It was nice that we didn’t have to see the man, that it was the two women battling it out in defence of their worlds, with him safely locked away.
Although the play is a real-time argument in a restaurant, with little movement away from their table, there are scenes and thankfully the smoking ban forces them to get up and go outside for a cigarette. Interspaced between the scenes are actual (we are told) testimony from real women’s statements and read by the two actors – stepped out of character. I found this a little jarring until I understood that it was not (the first time Beth read) her own secret account of her husband assaulting her. I wondered if there was a better way of managing this, or if they were absolutely necessary.
Watching a real-time argument risks repetition, and there were moments when I thought: “it’s going round in circles.” And later I thought Lizzie was a bit of a goody-two-shoes who could have done with her own secrets, perhaps guarded all these years by Beth. Something to have the balance of power move back and forth and cause the audience to have doubts about the certainty of their own positions. But for all that I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and look forward to seeing the play again when it transfers uptown.
Us Two runs until 25th January at the Space Theatre, London.