Tuesday, 6 August 2013

One Man, Two Guvnors

One Man, Two Guvnors
Theatre Royal, Haymarket

The second of the three plays I recently saw on the West End was the pick of the bunch.

One Man, Two Guvnors, written by Richard Bean (based on The Servant of Two Masters) follows a fairly simple premise, quoted here from the official website:

''Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe. But Roscoe is really Rachel, posing as her own dead brother – who’s been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers. Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a job with one Stanley Stubbers – but to prevent discovery, he must keep his two guvnors apart. Simple.''

Not so simple, of course. One Man, Two Guvnors taps into the rich vein of  classic British humour to unveil a potent mixture of farce, slapstick, split-second avoidance of ''those who must not meet'', some hilarious audience participation and a healthy dollop of postcard humour to boot.

The more Francis Henshall (excellently played by Rufus Hound, the linchpin of the show) tries to keep his double-dealing problems manageable, the more they threaten to spiral out of control. Just when it seems things couldn't get any funnier, we run into a fabulous dinner scenario, during which both guvnors sit down to eat (in separate rooms, off-stage) and Francis battles brilliantly to keep everyone fed, happy and segregated. He is assisted in this trickiest of tasks by the semi-dynamic duo of Gareth (David Benson) and Alfie (Martin Barrass) who help to create some of the funniest moments in the whole play. Indeed, some of the physical work simply has to be seen to be believed.

Despite the comedic physicality, the plot is not entirely neglected and the script allows for a satisfying - if telegraphed - conclusion.

I'd heard very good things about the play prior to seeing it and I'm pleased to say they were all true. One Man, Two Guvnors is definitely one of the must-see West End productions.

For further information, head for the official website.

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