Review: One Man, Two Guvnors
A chaotic evening for sure, in the best way possible
Set in 1960s Brighton, One Man, Two Guvnors is an outrageous comedy that recounts the story of an out-of-work-skiflle player who balances his employment to two men whilst ensuring they do not meet. This timeless piece, directed by Izzy Colman and Pauline Eller, surpasses all expectations of impeccable timing and slapstick comedy and will simply leave you laughing away at this feel-good play this Easter term.
The set design (James Andrews) complements the actors’ truly convincing performance right from the start, capturing the brilliance, vibrancy and retro nature of the southern city. There are also several numbers strategically performed in front of an audience who are so charmed by the angelic voices of the actors that they don’t even realise the change in scenery at first – an artful way of maintaining the fast-paced nature of the play. A variety of simple and strategically placed props also serve characters well in their endeavour to entertain the audience. Highlighted by their infectious energy and toe-tapping rhythms, the recurring skiffle band performances perfectly match the comedic chaos that unfolds on stage.
An effortlessly funny performance comes from Joe Morgan as Francis Henshall, the one man of the title, who leaves us ultimately questioning whether the third, fourth, or even fifth wall has been broken. Cambridge students can perhaps relate most to Francis, having to juggle multiple tasks at once, shouting “sh*t!” every other hour and having to deal with pretentious, upper-class “twats” (as the play kindly puts it). His improvisational skills add an unexpected layer of excitement to the character and his reliance on audience participation also leaves spectators intrigued and astonished throughout the play. The question is, could he pick on you next…?
Rosie Parrish shines in the role of Rachel Crabbe, a disguised woman posing as her twin brother, Roscoe. Her facial expressions, stances, and positioning on stage make her a memorable character as she smoothly switches between her two personas. Whether it’s her navigation of a love triangle or finding herself caught in difficult circumstances, Rosie succeeds in maximising humour in every moment in both her rigid, masculine posture and also when embodying Rachel’s grace and charm.
With a much-anticipated arrival of the second guvnor, Jay Palombella steals each of his scenes as Stanley Stubbers. Despite the character’s questionable background and behaviour, Jay’s interpretation of this oblivious and pompous, old toff is so charming that we simply brush these aside. As a true sign of the times, all of his jokes land extremely well amongst the audience, especially those about his private school days. His quick wit and sharp tongue make him a joy to watch and his spontaneous appearances make for a constant source of comedic entertainment.
Hannah Filer has the character of Charlie Clench down to a T, embodying the quintessential comedic gangster archetype with flair. As a master of comedic facades and Charlie’s boisterous demeanour, Hannah goes above and beyond and ensures the fierce protectiveness that the character has over his daughter is emphasised to the audience.
Aaron Gillett delivers a memorable performance of Alan Dangle through his exaggerated body language and melodramatic personality. He is best envisaged as a character who is able to evoke pure laughter amongst the audience even before saying his actual line. And delightfully paired with Alan as his ditzy lover, Harriet Haylock‘s portrayal of Pauline Clench adds another layer of humour to the play. Her delicate balance of naïvety and charm captivates the audience, and her genuine lack of awareness in certain situations generates countless laughs. In addition to her acting skills, Harriet’s impressive vocal talent shines through during the musical intermissions.
Lizzy Riley‘s outstanding performance of Dolly, a determined character, invites the audience to reflect on female empowerment in 1960s Britain, yet does not shy away from a masterclass in comedy. Her ability to command the room leaves spectators unsure of what she will say next. Overall, Riley’s playful incarnation of this character resonates well in her interactions with Christian Longstaff, who breathes an energetic vitality into his character of Harry Dangle. Perfectly embracing the comedic potential of the role, his lovably eccentric personality means each interaction that he has with another character brings out his quirks, which Harry is able to present strategically on stage through quick delivery of lines and exaggerated body language.
Olly Gale embodies the helpless waiter, Alfie, perfectly and is the only character capable of making a long act of bottle opening into a laughter-evoking act. The playful banter between Alfie and Joseph’s characters adds a niche layer of comedy to the show, that will leave the audience in a fit of giggles every time they appear on stage. Mio Lobban, although as equally comedic in their performance, takes the role of Boateng, the slightly more rational and in-tune character of the play appearing in the most farcical moments when identities are confused and twisted.
The smart script full of modern-day references and dramatic irony performed by a range of talented actors is what made the play overall so entertaining to watch; it went from a hilarious classic to an outstanding and relatable piece of comedy. The joint number at the end characterised the play with the presence of all cast members and provided a delightful finish to a wonderfully put-together show.
I cannot praise this show enough; it was exactly the laugh I needed before exams creep around the corner and I begin juggling multiple responsibilities just like Francis. But what is most impressive by far is the actors’ incredible juggling of a breathtaking performance during exam term.
One Man, Two Guvnors is showing from the 23rd – 27th of May at 7:45 pm with a 2:30 pm matinee on the 27th at the ADC Theatre. Book your tickets here.
Featured Image Credit: Paul Ashley