03 October 2019, The Tablet

First ladies playing second fiddle


First ladies playing second fiddle

Zoë Wanamaker as Helen in Two Ladies
Photo: Helen Maybanks

 

Two Ladies
Bridge Theatre, London

Believing that hostile criticism should be constructive, I will attempt to explain why a show that seemed in advance to have everything going for it turned out to contain little to encourage anyone to go.

Two Ladies by Nancy Harris has the potentially sparky scenario of Helen, wife of the French president, and Sophia, the current FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States), meeting in a holding room at a Côte d’Azur convention centre, as their theatrically unseen husbands hold an emergency summit on potential military action overseas.

The tantalising irony is that there’s a stand-off in this anteroom as well: neither first lady wants to come off second best and has brought an arsenal of weapons including sarcasm, condescension, and rumour. Promisingly, Helen is played by Zoë Wanamaker, a provenly great actress in work from Shakespeare and the Greeks to Pinter, and Sophia by Zrinka Cvitesic, a Zagreb-born performer who won an Olivier award in the musical, Once.

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