One Man, Two Guvnors
Reviewed by Tony Peters
Francis Henshall – Gavin Spokes
Dolly – Kelly Price
Charlie “the Duck” Clench – Ian Burfield
Pauline Clench – Rhona Croker
Stanley Stubbers – Sam Alexander
Alan Dangle – Harry Kershaw
Harry Dangle – Hugh Sachs
Rachel Crabbe – Amy Cudden
Gareth – David Benson
Alfie – Martin Barrass
Tom Greene, Josh Sneesby, Bryan Smith. Richard Coughlan, Benjamin Brooker
Since opening to rave reviews at the Lyttelton in 2011, Richard Bean’s wonderful comedy has become well established as part of West End theatre, transferring to the Adelphi later that year and then to its current home at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in March 2012.
James Corden played the lead role of the hapless Francis Henshall in the play’s early run before taking it to Broadway where he won a Tony Award for his performance. His place was taken in London, by his first cover, Owain Arthur, who immediately made the part his own.
From Monday 4th February 2013 Rufus Hound will take over playing Henshall to allow Arthur to take the play on an international tour.
While some productions absorb cast changes effortlessly and go on for years, it’s fair to say that some suffer just a little when the person who gave a play its initial impetus departs. I’m happy to say that this isn’t the case with Guvnors.
I can’t comment on Corden or Arthur as I never saw them, and this review is being written a few days before Rufus Hound dons Henshall’s wild checked suit, but this work remains in fine fettle and I can’t imagine a funnier show in the West End.
The play is based on The Servant of Two Masters, written in 1743 by Italian playwright Carlo Goldini. Here though, the action is updated to Brighton in the 1960s where the easily confused and food obsessed Francis Henshall finds himself working for two equally shady bosses — Stanley Stubbers and Charlie Clench — and has to keep each ones existence hidden from the other.
The farcical situations that follow are chaotic and really very funny as we’re treated to mistaken identity, physical comedy, cross-dressing and moments of audience participation — of which I’ll say no more so as not to spoil the moment.
It’s a first rate cast headed by Spokes, but special mentions to the gorgeous Kelly Price, taking over the role of sassy northern lass Dolly from Jodie Prenger; Rhona Croker as Clench’s daughter Pauline, who brings a whole new meaning to dumb blonde, and Harry Kershaw as her pretentious wannabe actor boyfriend Alan.
Musical interludes are provided by The Craze, a four-piece band who perform some wonderfully catchy songs very much in the sixties style written by Grant Olding.
I was still smiling about moments in this play on the train journey home. It’s an unpretentious laugh-out-loud comedy that’s perfectly played by a super cast and really lifts the spirits.
One Man, Two Guvnors plays at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket until August 2013.
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