Tuesday, 12 November 2019

This train is running — but it could lose a carriage or two

This train is running — but it could lose a carriage or two

Two Trains Running | Oxford Playhouse | Wednesday, September 25

TWO TRAINS RUNNING has been much heralded and has the potential to be a good play — once they’ve lopped off 40 minutes and got the actors to speak intelligibly.

This English Touring Theatre production is set in a Pittsburgh diner in a beaten up black area. The whole street is scheduled for demolition and redevelopment and threatens to destroy the solid community.

The message is that the downtrodden stay that way and never catch the breaks — true just about everywhere but especially so in the late-Sixties United States.

As with all poor societies the people in general look out for each other and profit isn’t the only or even the first motive. The down at heel get a hand up, the mentally ill are cared for by the diner patrons, the waitress has a heart of gold and will give away plates of food to those in need — and there are many of those.

It’s a black community with its own social strata, but all are united by the oppression of the white folks. So far, so interesting.

What lets this down is the meandering nature of the text, which raises story after insignificant story in a bland context.

Yes, there’s the man who’s just got out of penitentiary after serving five years for armed robbery — almost obligatory. More interestingly there’s an undertaker and the man who runs the local gambling racket.

They all have stories but none really seems to matter — it’s possibly a reflection of real life, but who needs that on stage?

And the biggest problem for this reviewer and I suspect many others was the nature of the dialogue — sometimes it was unintelligible with accents so thick that the producers have been forced to provide subtitles.

Exempted from all of this is Anita-Joy Uwajeh playing Risa the waitress. Her speech is crystal clear and her movement never over-exaggerated.

I know that other reviewers have touted this as being a special production, but not for me — what’s the point of having to consult a subtitles board to try to make sense of what you're hearing?

Until Saturday.

Mike Rowbottom

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