Writer: Richard Bean from The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Music: Grant Olding
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
It is testament to the writing skills of Richard Bean and the supreme talent of the energetic and committed cast that an obscure 18th Century Commedia dell’Arte farce has a packed audience of 21st Century Glaswegians rolling in the aisles. Bean’s One Man, Two Guv’nors has been appearing throughout the country to almost universal acclaim almost perpetually since its smash hit arrival in 2011 at the National Theatre and on this, its third national tour it has lost none of its ability to raise a laugh.
It’s 1963, Brighton, and Francis Henshall a man always on the lookout for an opportunity, has managed to secure himself two jobs with two different guv’nors. One, Roscoe Crabbe is a local gangster of formidable reputation, the other, Stanley Stubbers, a posh twit of a petty criminal. Francis does his level best to keep the two from learning of the others existence. But, to complicate matters, Roscoe is actually twin sister Rachel in disguise, Roscoe having been ‘accidentally’ murdered by Rachel’s love Stanley Stubbers. Thrown into the mix are the Clenches; Charlie, who owes Roscoe money and his daughter Pauline, previously betrothed to Roscoe to hide his homosexuality, but who is now set to marry would-be actor Alan Dangle, book-keeper Dolly and a host of other misfits.
The success of the piece depends on two factors, the writing and the cast, and in both cases they are top-notch. The rapid-fire dialogue and the break-neck speed physical comedy are delivered with aplomb by the talented ensemble cast, and this is the perfect example of a true ensemble cast: while much of the action lies heavy on the shoulders of a few principal actors, this is a piece where everyone has their moment to shine.
Gavin Spokes is an amiable and energetic Francis who gets the crowd on his side from the off and Alicia Davies a spot-on Roscoe/Rachel. Edward Hancock is an hysterical Alan (previously Orlando) Dangle; the reason for the change of name explained by the fact that angry young men of the 60’s are not called Orlando, his over the top luvvi-ness as the would be thesp is met with peals of laughter at every entry. The rest of the cast too, are pitch-perfect.The whole piece is punctuated before, during and after by skiffle band The Craze who deliver period atmosphere with first rate musicianship and bags of charm.
It’s good to see that a piece of such quality is still packing them in and has lost none of its sparkle. Do yourself a favour and get a dose of theatrical Prozac at the King’s Theatre until Saturday.
Runs until Sat 5 July 2014 then touring