Writer: Richard Bean
Music &Lyrics: Grant Olding
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Reviewer: Lindsay Sykes
Ina cross between Carry on and Pantomime we have the incredibly hilarious One Man, Two Guvnor’s. Full of physical comedy, slapstick, audience participation and breaking of the fourth wall.
Played originally in the West End by James Corden we now have Gavin Spokes filling the woollen suit of Francis Henshall, who acquires two different bosses, an upper-class twit and a young woman disguised as her recently murdered identical twin brother. His hilarious monologues to the audience about his gnawing hunger and mounting confusion somehow seem even funnier when a well-meaning member of the audience offers a sandwich. And he proves an absolute master at apparently spontaneous interaction with those members of the audience foolhardy enough to sit in the front row.
The rest of the cast are splendid, too, with especially winning work from Emma Barton, who is woefully underused in the first half but shines like a star in the second, as the busty book-keeper Dolly who tickles Henshall’s fancy; Patrick Warner as a silly-ass murderer Sydney, who comes over like a very bumbling and daft Bertie Wooster-esq character ; Edward Hancock as a hilariously pretentious young actor Alan; David Verrey as mastermind solicitor Harry and Jasmin Banks as Pauline one of the funniest and dumbest blondes it has been my privilege to encounter. Shaun Williamson is straight-faced funny as two-bit gangster Charlie ‘the Duck’ Clench and Alicia Davies is fantastically gruff as Rachel Crabbe who, for reasons too complicated to explain, spends most of the show in a Ringo wig impersonating her dead brother.
How much is scripted and how much made up on the spot isn’t clear. Some of it necessarily must change night by night given who gets grabbed, but the sense of mischief and mystery is a big part of the fun. This is especially true during a slapstick set piece that has you gasping with disbelief as the laughs still flow, through the fish, flames and foam.
One Man, Two Guvnor’s makes big physical demands of its cast. Michael Dylan, as an eighty something waiter Alfie, has an uncanny ability to bend himself backwards at a right angle, and to slide down walls. Spokes as Henshall somersaults over an armchair and catches a sweet in his mouth. His is an expansive, confident performance which holds all the pieces together; a scene in which he argues and then fights with himself, to the point of unconsciousness, is deftly done; half-ballet, half-slapstick
The music is quite wonderful, as we seated ourselves in the auditorium the band The Craze were already playing, and for every scene change they treated us to a song and an extended hand clapping set during the interval.
The show is quite frankly phenomenal. You need to see this show on its national UK tour because One Man, Two Guvnor’sis the funniest thing you will ever see, but be warned, the comedy is so physical and so fast you barely finish one laugh before you start another.
Runs until: Saturday 24th May