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Two Thousand Years- Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh's new play, his first in twelve years has created a great deal of excitement among theatre goers. It was sold out before it even had a title or the script was finished. Those expecting to re-live the glory days of Abigail's Party have every right to feel relieved as Two Thousand Years dies not disappoint. It is a play that lives with you long after the journey home, exactly what you expect from Leigh's work.

The master of character studies even manages to focus on current political events. Never one to shy away from key issues the talented writer from Salford even draws on everything from Iraq, Palestine/Israel and Hurricane Katrina. At times there is a real fear that the narrative has been created with gaps to insert political messages but the characters themselves are so beautifully drawn that you can forgive the writer this one flaw.

Set in a lovely suburban home in Cricklewood, Rachel and Danny are a Jewish middle class couple who read The Guardian and live out its ideology. This liberal minded pair has political conversations – always with balanced arguments. They even denounce Israel's handling of current events involving the Gaza Strip. This quashes the stereotype of the Jew who lives for the land whatever the cost to others which we are so used to seeing in film. These characters seem real; they utter lines that are so natural that you can hear yourself saying them. The writing is so raw and utterly believable that you will think you are eavesdropping on a conversation rather than spending an evening in the theatre.

Leigh has allowed the actors to explore their characters' traits and thus the stage is filled with naturalistic performances which although uncomfortable at times, allow the audience to become totally involved. Daughter Tammy is such an idealist that Alex Zegerman could have just played her like an eager puppy. But instead she highlights the character's undying love for her devoted mother, Rachel. Caroline Gruber explores her characters' interest in issues affecting us all but also her regret that her own family is not exactly as peace loving as she might have hoped. As war breaks out in her living room, her body language conveys her sense of longing for a more fulfilled life as she has no career to speak of.

Allan Corduner is Rachel's rock, Danny. This actor is incredibly gifted as he shows the audience an everyman who again longs to keep his family together whilst reading headlines about a world which is crumbling before his very eyes. Son Josh's new found faith scares the entire family but what the audience can see is that at least here is somebody who believes in something. Once Rachel's sister turns up unannounced, the Mike Leigh family fireworks that audiences expect rock the foundations of the house and leave all inside changed forever. Samantha Spiro is wonderful as self centred but lonely Michelle who is so desperate to fit in that she invents a happy world in which she inhabits. Ben Caplan's Josh, likewise longs to be accepted and only becomes less angry with his family when they allow him to live his life the way he wants. Grandfather, Dave (John Burgess) is also angry as he watches his family and the society they live in trash the values he believes in.

Reliant on body language and Alison Chitty's remarkable set which holds so many family secrets, this excellent play leaves you feeling thoroughly entertained. Yes, the politics grates slightly but it acts as a magnifying glass exposing a family's flaws as much as it does policies which attack our well being.

A brilliant evening that will leave you with plenty to take in, dissect and discuss.  

 

 

 


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From This Author Glenn Meads

Living in Manchester, Glenn writes for whatsonstage.com covering Salford, Manchester and Bolton. He also teaches Media, Film and English. His favourite writers are Arthur Miller, (read more...)