Theatre Review: One Man, Two Guvnors at Royal & Derngate

ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS by Bean,                      ,Author - Richard Bean, Director - Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Mark Thompson, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, Tour 2014, Credit: Johan Persson - www.perssonphotography.com / NNL-140509-122715001

ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS by Bean, ,Author - Richard Bean, Director - Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Mark Thompson, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, Tour 2014, Credit: Johan Persson - www.perssonphotography.com / NNL-140509-122715001

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The best of British comedy is revived and reworked to expert comedic effect in One Man, Two Guvnors.

Coming to Northampton three years after it first opened to rave reviews at the National Theatre, the “smash hit” comedy play does not disappoint in its ability to continually hit the funny-bone.

ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS by Bean,                      ,Author - Richard Bean, Director - Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Mark Thompson, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, Tour 2014, Credit: Johan Persson - www.perssonphotography.com / NNL-140923-101444001

ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS by Bean, ,Author - Richard Bean, Director - Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Mark Thompson, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, Tour 2014, Credit: Johan Persson - www.perssonphotography.com / NNL-140923-101444001

Relentlessly rebelling against traditional forms and structures, the play is ingeniously clever in the way it presents well-trodden paths in an unpredictable way.

From the first scene it is clear the character of Francis Henshall, played by Gavin Spokes, is the star ‘clown’ of the show, who fills the stage with a frenetic energy and keeps the laughs flowing.

In a role made famous by James Corden, Spokes revels in the physical comedy demanded of his character including falling out of chairs, spitting out soup and a memorable sequence where he has a schizophrenic fight with himself.

At times it feels as if the play is one long tribute to British comedy with a Fawlty Towers-esque scene featuring a hapless waiter quickly followed by a lengthy piece of tongue-twisting wordplay that could easily have slotted into the Morecambe and Wise show.

One of the most successful uses of traditional comedic devices is the much-loved pantomime interaction with the audience.

After being asked by the flirty bookkeeper Dolly whether he prefers a good meal or sex, the rotund, food-obsessed Francis provokes a huge laugh when he turns to the audience and says “it’s a tough one isn’t it”.

Francis is by no means the only cast member to openly break out of character and talk to the audience but this is also turned on its head when the foppish, aspiring actor Alan Dangle is ridiculed, with no trace of irony, by the posh, witless Stanley Stubbers for standing “in a way that assumes there is an audience in front of you.”

Stubbers, played by Patrick Warner, is particularly entertaining throughout with his dim-witted expressions and preposterously undecipherable posh ‘slang’.

With all the ludicrously eccentric characters in the show it is a welcome relief to have the familiar face of, Shaun ‘Barry from Eastenders’ Williamson, on stage playing the straightforward part of the cowardly gangster Charlie ‘the Duck’ Clench.

By the time Francis openly wonders out loud what his ‘motivation’ will be in the second act it is clear why this play has been praised for its unique brand of creative comedy chaos.

Perhaps the “funniest show on the planet” style reviews may be over egging how good One Man, Two Guvnors is, but it does contain some hilarious scenes which would provoke a belly laugh from the most miserable of people.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to describe may favourite scene in detail as it would give away one of the show’s biggest surprises. But, trust me, it is probably worth the entrance fee alone. One Man, Two Guvnors is at Royal & Derngate until September 27. To book go to www.royalandderngate.co.uk