TWO ROUNDS at Jermyn Street Theatre
“a tear-stained love letter to mothers and daughters”
Two Rounds explores the legacy of womanhood through two generations of four women in a tender and contemplative story. The first group we meet is a tea-party of housewives living in 1960s Italy. Translated from its original Italian debut and written by Cristina Comencini, the piece is a long conversation between four mothers. In the second act the actors play their respective daughters. Nothing happens to the characters beyond what they simply reveal dramatically to each other and events described off-stage. Beatrice, a vision in pink, (Daria Mazzocchio) is pregnant with her first child. Claudia (Natalie Cutler) in a green poodle skirt is uptight and traditionalist and consistently reminds Beatrice to expect even more pain in childbirth than whatever she imagines. Briskly dealing cards for the game is Gabriella (Flora Sowerby), in blue mid-length trousers. She criticises the nature of their housewife role with dry humour and knowing looks. Lastly, in matching purple headband and trousers is Sofia. She wins often at cards, but feels she has not won at life. Sofia (Saria Steyl) laments her life and delivers philosophical rants whilst chain smoking (around a pregnant woman…it’s definitely the 60s!) with pithy delivery.
Permeating the emotional moments is bright and dreamy lighting with vibrant pinks and an occasional flickering hanging lamp (Han Sayles). The set consists of a living room decorated with a somewhat kitsch collage of black and white photos of brides, mothers and families with the costumes doing heavy lifting in evoking the time period (Evelien Van Camp). Further punctuating the drama in the women’s conversation is a light piano score and Italian music (Hattie North). At the change to the next generation the home is draped in sheets and with cooler more sombre lighting and some Nokia ringtones to garnish its 90s setting.
“it is performed with quiet strength from the cast in both acts”
The relationship between mother and daughter is captured through the dual roles of the performers. Beatrice, pregnant with her daughter Giulia tells us she adored her mother who died. Directly mirroring these events in the 90s, Giulia (Mazzocchio) gathers her childhood friends after a funeral. Claudia, who idolised her mother, discusses the value she places in her role as a parent. In the second act, her daughter Cecilia (Cutler) is desperate to be pregnant. Gabriella, who feels lonely and side-lined proclaims she will teach her daughter Sara to play piano. Sara (Sowerby), a concert pianist, wishes her husband were more assertive in their marriage, disliking how he emasculates himself. Sofia feels dispassionate about her role in her daughter’s life. A doctor, Rossana (Steyl), who keeps an unlit cigarette in her mouth (it’s a metaphor) discusses balancing a career and family life. The women in the 90s generation discuss their problems with feminism and to some extent seem to dislike some of the freedoms they have that their mothers didn’t. The women of the elder generation casually admit to adultery, loneliness and resentment with their respective daughters supposedly in the room next door. Conversely, none of the daughters have become mothers in the second half and have made their own choices in their work and love lives.
Overall it is performed with quiet strength from the cast in both acts. Steyl’s performance enamours the audience to a regretful and bitter Sofia. Mazzocchio is endearing as Beatrice and Giulia, showing range. Directed by Aida Rocci, the scenes weave through the tea party and funeral but avoid over-the-top melodrama with expertly placed jokes by Cutler and Sowerby. However in lieu of conflict, expositional dialogue takes up the entire runtime. It is a tear-stained love letter to mothers and daughters.
TWO ROUNDS at Jermyn Street Theatre
Reviewed on 8th February 2024
by Jessica Potts
Photography by Giulia Delprato
Previously reviewed at this venue: