Two Rounds review – Jermyn Street Theatre, London ★★★★☆

Photo: Giulia Delprato

Review by Natalie Evans

To end the Footprints Festival for this year, Aslant Theatre Company collaborates with Jermyn Street for their new translation of the Italian classic Two Rounds.

We spend the first half of the play in the 1960s with Beatrice, Gabriella, Sofia, and Claudia – four women gathering for a game of cards as they do every thursday. Three are mothers already, with the final member of the gang heavily pregnant. Around the table they share their experiences of womanhood and motherhood, both shared and individual, permitted to be open and honest with themselves and each other by the simple fact that they are in the company of only other women.

After the interval, we jump forward 30 years to meet Giulia, Sara, Rosanna, and Cecilia – indeed their mothers’ daughters, although none of them are mothers themselves. In this timeline we get to see how much has changed, and what perhaps hasn’t. What opportunities women may now have, but also what expectations and persistent patriarchal barriers still keep them from ‘having it all’.

In both timelines, the four characters compliment each other completely. They are somewhat archetypes, but in a way that is useful for the themes addressed, and performed with such truthful vulnerability by the actors that they were brought to natural life.

Photo: Giulia Delprato

Evelien Van Camp did a particularly magnificent job creating these two same-but-different worlds through her design. The costumes in particular worked perfectly to immerse us in the respective time periods, and more importantly, who these characters were within the societal constraints of their era. The lighting however I found to be a little clunky and very on the nose. For example, the dramatic
spotlights during Sofia’s monologues, and the bright pink pulsing during Beatrice’s contractions both just felt obvious and prescriptive to me.

Within this piece, a light is shone on how, for us daughters, our mothers can often be both our biggest supporters and our strictest critics, our idols and our worst fears, our best friends and our greatest burdens. A complicated relationship that is thoroughly explored here despite a mother and daughter never occupying the stage together.

The plotline that dominated the piece though was how motherhood, in previous generations especially, was so often a woman’s primary purpose. So, once that child has their own life and path to find, what is left? What is a mother without a child? What is a person without a purpose? Of course, we women are now able to pursue passions outside the domestic realm, but the final question remains.

While watching this production, I couldn’t help but think over again about a quote from another female story that stormed recent media – “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back and see how far they have come” – The Barbie Movie 2023. Like this film, Two Rounds was very clearly a story created by women, for women.

Two Rounds played at Jermyn Street Theatre from 7 to 9 February as part of Footprints Festival