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!
- 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