I was kicking the blues yesterday and what better remedy than seeing One Man Two Guv’nors at the National Theatre. My really cool sister got us tickets on the third row in the stalls – great places, but thank god not the first row with the amount of audience participation that was involved…
The brilliance starts with the 1960s band ( think very early Beatles, when they still wore the silly uniforms) that plays a few songs as the people coming into to the auditorium: it is worth it to come in a bit early.
One Man Two Guvnors is written by Richard Bean and based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. The story is now set in England 1963, James Corden stars ( and I mean that in the shining meaning of the word) as Francis Henshall, a hard-up and hungry musician who takes a job for a small criminal Rosco Crabbe.
Rosco is in Brighton to claim his fiancee the dim Pauline. It’s to be a marriage of convenience – Pauline’s dad Charlie owes Rosco’s family money and with Pauline and £6000 this would all be settled.
The play however, opens with Pauline and wanna-be actor Alan’s engagement party as Rosco is supposed to be killed a week before by his twin-sister Rachel’s boyfriend Stanley Stubbs. Shock and confusion when Rosco (and Francis) join the party.
Soon a slap-stick comedy of confused identity commences, and to make things worse Francis accidentally gets employed by Stanley ( yes- the murderer and the boyfriend) too. He now has two guvnors to serve and keep happy. Oh and Rosco turns out to be Rachel in drag, who is waiting for her boyfriend Stanley -geddit?
James shows off his skills with his portrayal of Francis. He’s quick-witted in improvisation when bantering with the audience and his physical ability is admirable. He owns the slap-stick scenes – a particular high light when hungry Francis has to serve lunch simultaneously to his two masters in two different rooms. Add a bumbling waiter and an unsuspecting audience-member to the mix and it turns into perfectly choreographed and hilarious chaos.
The second half is much calmer than the first, but there are still gags aplenty. Francis develops a crush and all the characters need to discover the truth about each other. Throughout the performance, scene changes are accompanied by songs of the band and all the characters have a chance to shine in a transition number: be it singing , showing off their musical skills or even their bodies….
We literally cried with laughter all night: the situations are incredibly silly and entertaining. It is the complete package and delivers with a beautiful set, in words, music and action. One Man Two Guvnors is one perfect piece of entertaining theatre.