Nowadays, with every major public upset, social media becomes a gateway for processing anguish. One of the first to understand this was Roddy Doyle, whose Two Pints dialogues (published as a novella in 2012 but written first on Facebook) are set ironically at a bar, not at a computer. Doyle’s simple and accessible method is to set two Joe Soaps, deceptively worldly, righting wrongs over drinks.
In his adaptation for the Abbey Theatre, fitted to tour pubs across Ireland, Doyle attempts to expand a dialogue into a drama. Two men perched on stools (Liam Carney and Lorcan Cranitch, nicely agitated and frank) make outlandish links between car parks and Richard III, Nigella Lawson and cannibalism, with occasional glances and gossip aimed at other locals. At its best, it turns incomprehensible leaps into natural developments (who hasn’t read the Quran?). At its worst, it insists on turning banal fact into something comical (tonsils: are they edible?).
This isn’t just laughs. Carney’s character, we learn, has visited his dying father in hospital: “He told me he loved me.” Cranitch’s face, reflected in the bar mirror, stiffens into an aching picture of awkwardness, as if belonging to a generation encouraged to be practical, not emotional. “That must have been good,” he musters.
Doyle’s dialogues have often been about coping with grief, a struggle that’s at the heart of his play, but that gets a bit lost in the brew. Through director Caitríona McLaughlin skilfully distils the script into a smooth piece of bar-stool philosophising, like a suburban Dublin equivalent of Sartre and de Beauvoir at Café de Flore, some details seems needlessly diverting and even unfinished.
Doyle’s characters will intriguingly call out the systems that oppress them, especially the inequalities of their class. Yet it feels like self-sabotage that they be parochial in other matters, describing trainee doctors as “midgets” and recoiling at the vaguest homoerotic suggestion. Justice isn’t for all, it seems.
The most intended target is the church abuse scandals of recent times, which inspire a third meandering act that sees both men exchange secular visions of heaven. It confirms Doyle’s play as a sobering tragicomedy that, despite its rambling way, finds refreshing reassurance in its characters being better off exactly where they are.
“It’s a load of shite.”
Two Pints was at The Foxhound Inn, Dublin, on July 11th, and is touring Ireland until August 5th. For more details, click here.