Writer: Richard Bean
Director: Nicholas Hytner and Cal McCrystal
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Currently leaving ripples of laughter across the country, One Man Two Guvnors is striding out on its third UK tour. Leaving behind its home as a successful West End, Broadway and international production the show transforms Italian Commedia dell Arte into quintessential English slapstick. At the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh One Man Two Guvnors continues its renowned talent for physical comedy to a much appreciative audience.
Adapted from The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, One Man Two Guvnors starts out as a simple(ish) tale. Through his own gluttony for chips and a pint Francis Henshall (Gavin Spokes) somehow ends up working for two guvnors, Stanley Stubbers (Patrick Warner) a boarding school toff on the run for murder and Rachel Crabbe (Alicia Davies) disguised as her now deceased brother Ronnie. This career juggling ends just as you might expect, utter disaster.
The production strikes nostalgic cords of classic British melodrama and lampoons classical Shakespeare with its two star crossed lovers’ treatment of romance, death and longing. The very nature of this performance relies on British humour culture, an utter farce while still showcasing that underlying razor wit and timing. Moving the geography of the play from Italy to Brighton nails down that 60’s British camp humour and works to the productions full advantage. Audience participation and impressive, music numbers truly immerse an unsuspecting crowd. An evening of surprise is the key way to describe One Man Two Guvnors, which of course means elaboration would spoil many of the shows key gags.
Spokes as Henshall simply robs the spotlight from the cast, who are in no means less talented but Spokes timing, physical manipulation and toying of the audience really creates a traditional yet differently styled harlequin upon the stage. Blending expertly into the background always ready to strike a one liner or physical mockery. Cast members Warner, Shaun Williamson, Emma Barton and David Verrey all bring in a tight and excellent performance, with notable praise for Warner’s toff with an uncanny tongue for the English language.
The stage is simple yet effective and enhances the atmosphere without drawing attention from the acting which is clearly the primary focus. The stage and sound effects themselves deliver a fair physical performance when combined with the performers speed and pratfalls.
As a slight surprise the production features rather strong musical numbers primarily provided by The Craze who help transition the scene changes into highlights the audience awaits. It should also be noted that huge admiration must be given to Cal McCrystal and Kate Waters for tight and seamless physical and fight direction.
However, rather like the Brighton Pier itself the production has a few drizzled moments. Jasmyn Banks as Pauline Clench leaves little of an impression, primarily due to the brilliance of the remaining cast. The character itself at times feels whining and rushed but this really detracts little from the production.
One Man Two Guvnors deserves all the praise and laughter it gets, merry, light-hearted and filled with classic English farce.
Runs until Saturday 21 February 2015 then touring