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2Graves, a CurtainUp London review CurtainUp
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A CurtainUp London London Review
2Graves



And the revenge; it tastes so sweet/but the aftertaste is sour/And itís you that you devour.
---- Jack
2Graves
xxx
(Photo: Hugo Glendinning)
Paul Sellarís contemporary verse monologue was first produced at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer and has now transferred to the newly re-opened Arts Theatre. It is a cautionary tale about how revenge can corrode the avengerís soul as well as destroy his victims. Performed by the outstanding Jonathan Moore, this darkly witty drama set in the East End underworld holds our attention through the richness of its language and the quality of its storytelling rather than any great theatricality.

Moore plays Jack, the son of Bobby Tops, a contender for the World Professional Darts Championship, until forced to throw his match by gangsters backing his opponent Big Ronnie, as they threaten to kill Jack. After Bobby loses a return contest in a lock-in at Ronís dodgy East London pub, he gets into debt and kills himself — or so it seems.

In order to pay off his Dadís debts, Jack has to work as an enforcer for hoodlums Harry and Mad Michael Franks, the very people he regards as responsible for Bobbyís downfall and death. Jack bides his time with only one thing on his mind — vengeance.

Sometimes reminiscent of the early works of Steven Berkoff, Sellarís seedy poetry powerfully creates through its heightened realism a twilight world of criminal gambling syndicates and violent gang conflict. There is a strong sense of how Jack, through loyalty to his father, is ineluctably dragged down into this hell hole, as he moves from innocent teenager to young man lusting for revenge and middle-aged mobster who has killed off his moral self. However, there is no real feeling of inner conflict during Jackís descent — he doesnít struggle against his ’fate’ so both our sympathy towards him and the dramatic impact of his corruption is limited. The play is definitely more thriller than tragedy.

Director Yvonne McDevitt has decided not to try and make the work more dynamic for the stage but to keep the focus very much on Sellarís text, which is strong enough to keep the audience engaged throughout its 75-minute duration. The occasional well-judged use of lighting changes (Colin Grenfell) and sound effects (Kay Basson) to evoke a racecourse or a prison scene, for example, add to the drama without distracting from the intensity of the oral storytelling.

Jonathan Moore triumphantly carries off the responsibility of delivering the goods single-handedly. Apart from standing at the beginning and end, he sits, dressed in black, in a high-backed chair throughout without making many movements, as if in a trance. The whole emphasis is on his voice, which quickens in times of tension and slows in more reflective moments, as he brings to life the events he is describing. As well as suggesting the transformation in Jackís personality, Moore also does effective vocal impressions of the other Cockney characters involved.

The closing lines, "Revenge is bad for your health/So if you must go looking for revenge/Dig two graves — one for yourself", sum up the moral of the story rather too neatly perhaps, but Sellarís play has plenty of punch. 2 Graves certainly provides a decent short eveningís entertainment at the theatre, even though it would work just as well on TV or radio.

2GRAVES
Written by Paul Sellar
Directed by Yvonne McDevitt

Starring: Jonathan Moore
Design: Kimie Nakano and Matthew Deely
Lighting: Colin Grenfell
Sound: Kay Basson
An Andy Jordan production
Running time: 75 minutes (no interval)
Box Office: 0870 060 1742
Booking to
Reviewed by Neil Dowden based on November 3rd performance at the Arts Theatre, 6-7 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB (Tube: Leicester Square)
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