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Daily Express
Arts Theatre

Poetic drama hits bull’s eye

At a time when the West End is bursting with new blockbuster musicals, a one man verse drama about a darts feud seems an unlikely winner. Even more so when it’s delivered by a burly bloke. Who never budges from his seat throughout the 75-minute production and who sports black bicycle shorts and a hairstyle reminiscent of Nigel Planer in The Young Ones.

But Paul Sellar’s blistering script and Jonathan Moore’s virtuoso performance have you gripped from the moment Moore lowers himself into his chair and rasps out the words: “there’s a poetry to justice.”

In essence, 2Graves appeals to everyone’s love of a good yarn. Moore’s character Jack is a son with a lust for revenge that would shame Hamlet. He pours out his tale in vivid, muscular verse and , as he does so, he draws us into a seedy underworld of crime.

Jack tells how his whole life changed in 1978, the night his dad – a petty criminal trying to go straight – pinned his hopes on winning the World Professional darts Championship. But the match was rigged. Big Ron triumphed; dad was shamed; his life fell to pieces. From then on, Jack’s course in life was marked out – to punish those who had destroyed his dad.

He drags us with him into increasingly murkier waters, into East End pubs and betting shops, into race fixing, extortion and vicious tit-for-tat violence. And, as he gets further into the mire, jack the lad gives way to a ruthless criminal. So the meaning of the play’s title becomes clear, as he warns us at the end: “If you must go looking for revenge, dig two graves – one for yourself.”

The story grips but it is the style that makes it: there’s a joy in the way Sellar combines the formal rigours of verse with ripe, east End vernacular. It’s a poetic ballad one minute, Ernie (The Fastest Milkman) the next.

And Moore’s excellent performance, deftly directed by Yvonne Mcdevitt, keeps the pace and focus tight and, using language alone, transports us to a smoky pub, a reeking prison cell and to the frightened, piteous death of a race horse. A bull’s-eye.

Sarah Hemming