Writer: Richard Bean
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Tour Director: Adam Penford
Reviewer: Lu Greer
Now on its third tour of the UK, this re-imagining of a classic Commedia dell’Arte, has until this point won over critics left and right as its takes the audience through some of the most chaotic days of Francis Henshall’s (Gavin Spokes) life when he tries to juggle two very demanding jobs. This show does now have the risk of running into some problems as it begins to see people returning for a second viewing. As the show itself is based on Carlo Goldoni’s 1743 play Servant of Two Masters, it is by its very design predictable, but a large part of what has made it so successful is the unexpected extra twists. With many now having seen the show before, and failing that, have been told about it, it now falls to the actors to bring a fresh spark of life to the show. While this show does relish this challenge, and once again the script is changed to fit in yet more jokes, there are some short comings here.
The highlight of this show certainly comes when the audience are called upon for their help, both in planned and unplanned guises. In these moments of barely contained madness the show truly comes alive and embraces slapstick at every turn.
Accompanying this is some excellent acting, particularly in the case of Edward Hancock whose portrayal of Alan Dangle and his over acting is both hilarious and carefully calculated as he continues his excessive stretching and pouting even from the back of the stage. While the rest of the cast are clearly accomplished there seems to be an issue with the comic timing, particularly in the first few scenes. It feels in these early scenes as though there is a little too much haste in getting the lines out, so some of the punch lines are brushed past and overlooked.
The use of a skiffle band at the beginning, interval and end as well as during each set change is simply a stroke of genius. The band grounds the show in the 60s while bringing some more fun to the audience, who can be seen throughout the theatre dancing, and in some cases singing, along to the catchy tunes. What shouldn’t be overlooked in this fun, though, is the sheer talent of the musicians as they never miss a beat – even when a banjo is missing its shoulder strap.
Overall, One Man Two Guvnors is an exceptionally funny show. It utilises its premise wonderfully, and has both subtle, and not so subtle, moments of comic genius. Unfortunately, this is not the best run there has been of this show, as the timing issues do let the script down in places. That being said, this show is still a comedy, and it will still have you crying with laughter at least once in the night.
Runs until 29th November| Photo Johan Persson