Review: One Man, Two Guvnors

4 star rating
Richard Bean's hilarious comedy play with music gets a welcome if rather safe revival, but rampant silliness makes for a terrific night out - still a must-see show.
One Man, Two Guvnors at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

Image courtesy Queen's Theatre Hornchurch



Closes here: Saturday 19 October 2019

Author:
Richard Bean (based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni)

Composer:
Grant Olding

Lyricist:
Grant Olding

Director:
Sarah Brigham

Cast:

Francis - David O'Reilly

Charlie - David Cardy

Pauline - Samantha Hull

Stanley - George Kemp

Rachel - Alice Frankham

Alfie - TJ Holmes

Harry - Ivan Stott

Lloyd - Duane Hannibal

Alan - Jack Brett

Gareth - Craig Armstrong

Dolly - Rosie Strobel


Ensemble:

Roberto Boyle

Dylan Bull

Megan Clark

Karen Lawley


The Rozzers Skiffle Band:

Dominic Gee-Burch

Oraine Johnson

Jay Osborne

Tomas Wolstenholme


Synopsis


After being fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall is skint and hungry.


He manages to secure a new job as a minder for small time gangster Roscoe Crabbe.


What Francis doesn't know, is his new guvnor is really Roscoe's sister Rachel in disguise as her own dead brother, who has been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.


To further complicate things, Francis nabs a second job working for that very Stanley Stubbers who is hiding from the police.


All Francis has to do to ensure his two guvnors don't meet.


What could go wrong?


Background


One Man, Two Guvnors is a side-splitting mix of physical comedy, farce and live music and has remained a huge hit with audiences and the press alike since the National Theatre's production opened to rave reviews in 2011.


The play continued to be a runaway success when it later toured the UK, played in the West End and on Broadway and later played Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, plus further UK tours.


Trailer



ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 3 October 2019
Review star rating image

It's now in the dim and distant past of 2011 when I reviewed Richard Bean's take on Carlo Goldini's 'The Servant of Two Masters' in its original version at the National Theatre.


Back then, I said that "you may have to hammer pretty hard on the National's door to get tickets as it is sure to be a sell-out, and deservedly so".


I wasn't on my own in that assessment, with all the top critics raving about the show with one long-serving member of the fraternity saying it was "One of the funniest productions in the National's history."


Since then the show has had a lengthy spell in the West End, several UK tours, an international tour and made a successful transition to Broadway too.


And it also garnered the Best Play award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for 2011, as well as a string of other award nominations including Drama Desk Awards.


If you're assessing a show's past successes as a means to decide whether to see it or not, then One Man, Two Guvnors has the pedigree and credentials in spades.


For those who've yet to experience the explosion of visual gags and verbal humour, a comedically odd plot and an extraordinary range of characters, all interspersed with some skiffle, this is most definitely one to catch.


This production is another joint venture from Derby Theatre and Queen's Theatre Hornchurch with, on this occasion, Derby's Artistic Director Sarah Brigham directing the show.


Having already had its opening in Derby, the show has now made its way south for the delectation of Hornchurch folk who will no doubt find its brand of humour particularly appealing.


However, my original assessment - "one of the funniest shows I've seen" - didn't quite manage to be matched in this revival, which opts to play safe by sticking with many of the characteristics and qualities defined by the original.


Of course, a show's impact can often diminish on a second or subsequent viewing - and that's probably true in my case - knowing what's on its way knocks the polish off the offering a touch.


But the production's overall approach eschews much in the way of risk taking that might have stamped its own flavour, authority and novelty on the play - and that feels like something of a missed opportunity.


That won't matter a jot though to those who have never seen the show before - because there's still bags to enjoy in rampant silliness, visual humour and much else besides to amply entertain.


And the production is certainly skilfully orchestrated and well-honed with excellent and endearing performances.


The plot just about makes sense come the denouement but still feels rather complex and bizarre as indeed it's meant to.

Cast of One Man Two Guvnors at Queens Theatre Hornchurch

Cast of One Man Two Guvnors at Queens Theatre Hornchurch


David O'Reilly takes the lead here as Francis Henshall - the servant who takes on two bosses - managing all the complex demands of the role and working the audience with skilful and hugely comic panache.


The actors look as though they're enjoying their roles immensely which always adds to the dynamics, and the cast here is certainly both talented and well-drilled to deliver the spot-on timing the venture requires.


Skiffle Band The Rozzers do more than ample justice to Grant Olding's songs playing for us before the show starts and during it.


And we get 'turns' from many of the cast who play a variety of instruments or sing for us in diverting interludes in amongst the action.


Now almost a decade old, Richard Bean's inventive and well-written concept has lost none of its comedic delight, and though this production lacks a touch in the innovation department it provides all the necessary ingredients for a terrific night out and making One Man, Two Guvnors still a must-see show.



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