Two Trains Running at Derby Theatre Review

22-26 October 2019

Two Trains Running

Reviewed by Katy Nettleton

A fast paced, energetic performance bringing black history and the black power movement in the re-generation area of The Hill District, Pitsburgh in the late 1960s.

Two trains running is an explicit pollical play which took some time for me to settle in watching and feel comfortable with the language being used.

The play is based around a restaurant owner (Memphis) who is wanting the best dollar he can get for his restaurant due to the need for it to be sold, for regeneration work (compulsory purchased). The image of a downtown area being “demolished to the ground” is further exhibited with the excellent staging and use of a wrecking ball, swinging over the building (which was cleverly lit up and was a clear reflection on how concrete structures were demolished in modern history) and black oppression. The staging was impressive, the illusion of an instable restaurant with mould, and broken beams was pure brilliance and truly brought the show together.

The suspended red door over the disintegrating restaurant on the stage was a little strange, if I am being completely honest. There was only 1 scene where it opened, but then this seemed peculiar as previously the door was referenced to be the door of Aunt Ester, the fortune teller however when It opened with dramatic music and lighting this was not related. This still confuses me. However, as this is a 2-hour 40-minute show there were times that the heavily worded scenes did lose my concentration and meant I was catching up on what had been said. There were many scenes I felt that could be shortened and that there was clear repetition of lines and meanings with often another character then re-iterating these once again.

I found that the language used was indeed a reflection of “cultural language” in the 1960s but that it was possibly overused and included for effect, rather than the story itself.

As the story progresses, we see the lives of 7 characters unfold in front of our eyes as they need to make decisions about their past and their future. This is a wordy show with small segments of music which is highlighted by the broken jukebox within the restaurant, which has not been repaired for months. This often led to background music off-stage which did not add to the actual scene, but more as a diversion from what was happening.

Overall, I feel this was a successful showing of a snapshot of a moment in American history which got the audience thinking about history and questioning the vagueness and ambiguity of the show itself.

I would give this a 2.5 out of 5, purely due to the length of the show, being nearly 3 hours and a heavily worded script. However, Two Trains Running has brought black history into the theatre and made the members of the audience question the show and history which can only be a good thing.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tickets cost from £15 (booking fees may apply).

Two Trains Running is at Derby Theatre from 22-26 October 2019, for more information or book tickets visit or call the box office on 01332 593939.

Derby Theatre, 15 Theatre Walk, St Peter’s Quarter, Derby, DE1 2NF | 01332 593939

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