Lights fade up on the Miller’s living room. It is Liverpool, April 1989 and 2 brothers, Joe (James Ledsham) and Pete (Daniel Cassidy) bicker over their respective tastes in music and whether Joe’s new girlfriend, Sue (Sam Walton) is “out of his league.” Their Mum, Theresa (Jackie Jones), is looking forward to welcoming Sue to their home, but first has to divulge a significant fact about their middle child’s love interest to husband David (Mike Sanders), a dyed-in-the-wool Liverpool supporter.
Add to this mix a stroppy elder daughter, Jacqueline (Katie King) who hates her job in the shoe department at George Henry Lee and you’d be forgiven for thinking Those Two Weeks was just another ‘Liverpudlian’ drama. However, this is not the case; whilst Ian Salmon may know how to write characters and relationships that an audience can identify with, nothing about this play is mawkish or predictable.
As someone who was a teenager themselves during this period, it was strangely comforting to be transported back to a time where family squabbles occurred over who received the most calls on the ‘landline’ and whose turn it was to answer the door. Whilst the themes explored in the play are as relevant today as they were almost 30 years ago, the authentic costume, set and soundtrack gave the production an air of nostalgia.
Directed with skill and an attention to detail, Mike Dickenson draws out the best from all of his actors. The timing of the comic moments creates light relief when needed, particularly towards the end of the first act when a secret is revealed. As emotions run high, words are said that cannot be unsaid. Can the relationship between husband and wife, father and daughter ever be the same again?
This is a play of contrast and depth which packs an emotional punch in all the right places. While there are many strong performances, Jackie Jones and Mike Sanders deserve special mention for their portrayal of a Mum and Dad struggling to pick their way through the emotional debris in the wake of the disclosure. Without giving anything away I doubt there were many in the audience who failed to be moved as we saw David swallow his pride and fight for his place within the family. Similarly, Lisa McMahon’s monologue at the end of the play was truthful, absorbing and sensitively delivered.
The play is only on for one more night at the Gladstone, and if last night’s performance is anything to go by I anticipate another standing ovation. Those Two Weeks is a poignant, well- written observation of family life and the moments which defined them in the 2 weeks before the Hillsborough tragedy and the years that followed. It is a beautiful play about everyday life and a timely reminder to never forget those who lost theirs and the ones who were left behind.
Helen is a graduate of Warwick University and The Playwright’s Programme at The Liverpool Everyman. Her first play, The Brink, was performed at venues in Liverpool (The Lantern Theatre, The Unity) Manchester (Kings Arms) & London (Theatre503) to critical acclaim. In 2017, her play, Gun Metal Blue was awarded the Blink Theatre Award for new writing and she has recently adapted Midsummer Night’s Dream for Daniel Taylor’s Production at the Epstein Theatre, Liverpool.