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New Theatre, Oxford

One Man, Two Guvnors
4.0Reviewer's Rating

One Man, Two Guvnors is a lovely romp of an evening in the theatre. Goldoni’s play, The Servant of Two Masters, upon which the plot is based and then updated to the 1960s in Brighton, was, in its day, highly innovative in its approach to characterization and is a literary masterpiece. One Man is a wonderful reaction to it, a compilation of British music hall, pantomime and Whitehall farce. The energy and commitment of the cast are dazzling.

Gavin Spokes is something of a con man but exceptionally charming in the lead role of Francis Henshall; Emma Barton is very appealing as his inamorata; Edward Hancock, Patrick Warner and the entire cast are outstanding, both in their slightly loopy, comic-book characterizations and in the sheer physicality with which they play their roles. The speed and timing of entrances, exits, somersaults, rolling on the floor, biffs in the face, and so on, are breathtaking, captivating and hilarious all at the same time.

Special mention needs to be made of the excellent and charming on-stage band of musicians called The Craze and of the evocative, delightful music and lyrics with which they entertain us at various moments as well as their back-up playing from the pit. The design by Mark Thompson is only one more thing to mention about a truly notable production. This is an evening of pure, magical, hilarious farce in a very English tradition. And now I must desist to avoid giving away many details of the show that I would love to highlight but that might spoil the surprises and fun for future audiences! Oh, how I wish I did not have to!

  • Comedy
  • Hugh Bean (based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni) with songs by Grant Olding
  • Directed by Adam Penford (Tour Director and Choreographer)
  • Producer: National Theatre
  • Cast Includes: Gavin Spokes, Emma Barton, Derek Elroy, Shaun Williamson, Jasmyn Banks, Edward Hancock, Alicia Davies, Patrick Warner
  • New Theatre, Oxford
  • On UK Tour
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 26 February 2015

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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