Venue: Grand Opera House, York
One Man, Two Guvnors follows the adventure Francis Henshall (a man with two guvnors) as he muddles his way through murder, false identities, love triangles – all on an empty stomach. Adapted from the 18th Century play, The Servant of Two Masters, this National Theatre production brings the farcical tale into the modern world – Brighton during the swinging 60’s – without omitting anything farcical whatsoever and adding just the right amount of cheeky British humour. If you’re looking for something utterly ridiculous that will make you howl from start to finish, this is the show for you.
Not only was One Man, Two Guvnors funny, it was also very stylish and rather intuitive (what else would you expect from National Theatre?). The set was inoffensively loud, with bright colours and bold prints galore, and the variety of settings constantly drew you in and held your attention. Additionally, scene changes were thoroughly enjoyable, as a musical interlude – provided by an authentic skiffle band – masked each transition. A very nice touch, especially as each character was given the opportunity to partake and showcase their musical virtuosity.
None of this, however, would have been enjoyed half as much as it was, had it not been for the absurdity of the performance itself. At the risk of sounding too cliché, I had a grin on my face from start to end. Scene after scene, line after line, kick after slap I was entertained by the light-hearted buffoonery that was before me. There were cheesy jokes left, right and centre and enough slapstick lunacy to chuck a fish head at. The level of physical comedy was fantastic, particularly in the restaurant scene, and it was impressive to see characters maintain a consistent level of performance despite such demanding roles. I hope that this play is equally as much fun to perform as watch, for I was giggling the whole way through.
Audience participation was also a highlight of the production. The fourth wall was completely abandoned and on more than one occasion, members of the audience were invited up onto stage in order to partake in the show’s antics, and the outcomes of these encounters were somewhat unpredictable (if you want to know what I mean – watch it!). Gavin Spokes must be given credit here, as his off-the-cuff one-liners during these moments were sometimes funnier than those that were scripted for him.
The entire cast, on that matter, were fantastic. Always energetic, each character took it in their stride to really ham up their parts and ensure that this farce was farcical. Edward Hancock (Alan) did particularly well here, as his portrayal of an aspiring ‘actor’ was really enhanced by his flowery language, excessive lunging and flamboyant energy.
That is not to say, however, that this play did not also include some rather witty humour. Alongside the crude gags and the smut, there was also some pretty good wisecracks. Dolly’s (Emma Barton) quip at Maggie Thatcher during the Second Act was pretty sassy, receiving a good response from those watching.
Although such bold, brash and frankly stupid comedy does not usually appeal to me, I could not help but enjoy One Man, Two Guvnors. As a farcical comedy, it ticks all the boxes required – the plot, characters and jokes are just so wildly ludicrous that there is no real opportunity not to enjoy it! The entire production was so fine-tuned and fast-paced that it was difficult to pull yourself away from the world of laughter on-stage and you were compelled to enjoy yourself. So, if you need something to brighten up your last week of term, head down to the Grand Opera House this week and check out this production – I’m sure you won’t regret it.