Last and First Ladies

Nancy Harris, Two Ladies (Directed by Nicholas Hytner, Br/dge Theatre

The Bridge Theatre seems to have developed a thing about marathons. We’ve had two one-woman shows without intervals and now here’s what is essentially a two-hander without interval.

We have Helen (Zoë Wanamaker), who is not the wife of President Macron, and Sophia (Zrinka Cvitešić), who is not the wife of President Trump. But one is twenty years older than her husband and preparing to use a press release to diffuse a scandal and the other is an Eastern European ex-model who has been splashed with animal blood. Meanwhile, their husbands are negotiating reprisals against a terrorist attack. And

So we have a debate about the rights and wrongs of the situation and how far wives are in the background of powerful men. Helen thinks she is in control of things, but Sophia knows more about her troubles than she realises and blackmail might be on the agenda — or something darker.

That darker thing is frankly ridiculous and the plan b takes a long time to formulate and seems likely to backfire on them anyway. It seems likely to make the situation infinitely worse. But this is the sort of supposedly psychological thriller that The Bridge seems to have an affection for. The real drama is off stage, punctuated by aides interrupting the melodrama.

It has to be said that the American aide, Sandy (Lorna Brown), turns out to have hidden depths, and has a show stealing speech; it is hardly a surprise that Sophia has hidden depths. Tell us something that we don’t know. Men are bastards, they kill, they rape, they demand attention — this too is hardly news. Helen might assert that women are as bad, but we don’t get to see it.

Wanamaker and Cvitešić do their best with a weak script, although the former stumbled. I can’t help but feel that the use of dramatic incidental music shows they knew the script was underwhelming. We should know it’s dramatic. But it didn’t really convince.

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