One Man Two Guvnors is a blissfully funny, cracking night out. Mixing slapstick comedy, scripted audience participation and even infectious songs by an in-house Skiffle band – you will most likely be teetering on the edge of your seat with laughter, waiting to see the latest trick this production has up its sleeve.
The concept of the play is this: one man – Francis Henshall has got himself two jobs – one as a servant to Rachel Crabbe who is hiding out, disguised as her dead brother. Henshall’s other master is Stanley Stubbers, Rachel’s lover, who is also laying low. “It should be easy as long as I don’t get confused” Henshall confides to the audience “but I do get confused easily…” Hilarity ensues as Henshall tries to keep both masters happy, while attempting to eat as much as possible and win the love of feisty Dolly.
This production was a sell out at the National Theatre and the Adelpi theatres. It is now showing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with a brand new cast who more than live up to their predecessors. Richard Bean’s play updates Carlo Goldoni’s 1746 classic “The Servant of Two Masters” to 1960s Brighton, giving it a distinctly English twist.
The fantastic cast of odd-ball characters is inhabited by the actors with great energy and fantastic comic timing. The star turn is of course by Owain Arthur who plays Francis Henshall. James Corden’s shoes were big ones to fill, but Arthur manages admirably, bringing a Welsh charm to the role. He is by turns disgusting, charming and shy, winning the confidence of the audience with his asides in the tradition of the Comedia dell’Arte. Arthur is supported by an excellent cast: there is the gangster Charlie “the Duck” Clench (Gerard Horan), whose laconic advice to his daughter includes “Love passes through marriage faster than shit through a small dog”. His daughter Pauline (Hannah Spearritt) is a simple minded blonde whose refrain “I don’t understand” echoes through the production. Her fiancé Alan (Daniel Ings) is hilarious as a posturing would-be actor who attempts to kill his love rival using a knife he purchased “at Woolies”. Rachel (Gemma Whelan) is great in the role of the cross dressing master, while Stanley Stubbers (Ben Mansfield) has some smashing and politically incorrect lines as Rachel’s posh former public-school boy love interest.
The physical comedy of the play directed by Cal McCrystal is unparalleled. The scene in which Henshall attempts to serve dinner to both masters at once with the help of a doddery 76 year old waiter, who is on his first day, had me in tears. Expect surprises in the form of audience members on stage in this mayhem-filled production. “The Craze” provide authentic Skiffle music specifically written for the play, making it a fully immersive experience.
Nicholas Hytner’s production is slick, well-paced, and filled with comic punches. Combine that with excellent comic acting and a script which is as generous as it is funny and you have a must-see!
One Man Two Guvnors is on at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until Saturday 1 September for more information or to book tickets please click here