Original Director: Nicholas Hytner
Tour Director: Adam Penford
Writer: Richard Bean
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
This National Theatre touring production of One Man Two Guvnors’ that ran to great success in London’s West End tonight opened at Southampton’s Mayflower. Gavin Spokes takes the lead as Francis Henshall alongside Shaun Williamson (Charlie Clench), Emma Barton (Dolly), Jasmyn Banks (Pauline Clench) all who are easily recognisable as stalwarts of BBC’s Eastenders and supported by a strong cast and musical support by the skiffle band The Craze.
What seems like a complicated plot based on Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters and adapted to comical success by Richard Bean, is far easier to understand when seen performed than perhaps it is when explained. Moving the events to 1960’s Brighton gives a more believable and easily understood narrative.Through desperation and a need to eat, Henshall takes up employment with infamous gangster Roscoe Crabbe who is in fact his twin sister Rachel (Alicia Davies) in disguise. In a ridiculous moment of stupidity Henshall also ends up being employed by Stanley Stubbers (Patrick Warner) who is Rachel’s boyfriend. It is the confusion and mix ups in keeping his two employers apart that make for some crazy, energetic, slapstick from Spokes and other cast members. However put into the mix an engagement that goes wrong, the buxom Dolly (Emma Barton) whom Henshall is trying desperately to take away on a week in Majorca and the whole play proves a most entertaining evening.
Spokes gives an outstanding, energetic performance as the loveable and slightly stupid Henshall who interacts superbly with the audience. A moment of hilarity regarding the humus sandwich waved by an audience member causes the audience and Spokes to laugh uncontrollably which Spokes uses to great effect throughout the rest of the play. The audience ‘plant’ who is nervously forced onto the stage makes for a hysterical scene which leaves the audience breathless with laughter and what appears to be a traumatised audience member.
Two special mentions must be given to Patrick Warner as the “Tim Nice but Dim” type Stanley whose daft and often inappropriate one-liners had the audience rolling with laughter. Also Michael Dylan as the shaky, doddering, elderly waiter Alfie who endured having doors slammed in his face, head banged into door frames and punched and hit by nearly every cast member was genius. The highlight however was seeing his reaction when having his pacemaker ramped up so high just to keep him mobile, his ability to bend over backwards in an impossible position to hold was incredibly funny.
As ever with a National Theatre production the audience are presented with a quality show. The wonderful set that is swiftly changed while cast members and The Craze offer musical interludes which showcase their ‘talents’. Add to that the rather delightful costumes, wigs and makeup that reflect the era and the show really is at the top of its class.
This has got to be one of the most side-splittingly funny touring productions and I would urge anyone who wants a fabulous night out to go and see this.
Tour photo¦ Runs at Southampton Mayflower until Saturday 7th June then touring