One Man, Two Guvnors – Review

Alicia Davies, Gavin Spokes and Patrick Warner in One Man Two Guvnors
Alicia Davies, Gavin Spokes and Patrick Warner in One Man Two Guvnors. Photos by Hugo Glendinning

The gags don’t stop coming in the National Theatre’s touring production of One Man, Two Guvnors that’s proving a cracking hit second time around at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre this week.

Is it because Leighton Buzzard’s Gavin Spokes, is playing the irrepressible and hapless minder, Francis Henshall?

Or is it the wonderfully deadpan delivery of rent-a-cockney Shaun Williamson as Charlie The Duck? Or the impeccably delivered dumb blonde routine from Jasmyn Banks?

Actually it’s all that and more. The casting is faultless – from all of the above – to Emma Barton as the busty bookkeeper Dolly; Edward Hancock coming over all luvvie as “actor” Alan Dangle; Patrick Warner as ex-public schoolboy and chinless wonder Stanley Stubbers; and the indefatigable Michael Dylan as Alfie the waiter.

One Man has a faultless pedigree. The story is based on Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters but has been wonderfully reimagined by writer Richard Bean who has set the comedy in Brighton, circa 1963.

It opened at the NT in 2011 and confirmed James Cordon as a comic genius in the role of Henshall. He also wowed audiences on its first tour which played to a sell-out Waterside.

Cordon was followed into the West End by another renowned physical comic, Rufus Hound.

But waiting in the wings as understudy was Spokes. He eventually took over the lead and is now delighting audiences with his cheeky
delivery, sparkling personality and reckless disregard for his own safety.

Henshall is a very physical and robust part in a two-hour show packed with one vaudevillian slapstick routine after another.

If he’s not toppling over with a giant-sized trunk, he’s picking an argument with himself that results in a colossal headache, or haring about the stage at breakneck speed.

One Man is, as it says on the tin, about a man with two guvnors. But the perpetually hungry (and broke) Henshall, hired to act as a minder to both a diminutive London gangster and poshboy Stubbers, get easily confused as to who he’s running errands for.

“What’s a nemesis?” gangster “Roscoe” Crabbe asks Henshall. “I don’t know. I think it might be a Citroen,” he replies.

“You’re not exactly a Swiss watch are you?” declares the exasperated Charlie.

Some of the biggest laughs of the night come from the wildly sadistic physical gags – with usually the decrepit Alfie or Henshall on the receiving end.

This immaculate production is a delight from the outset with Spokes endorsing his credentials as a first rate comic.

The musical interludes between scenes, and at the beginning of each Act, also give audiences the bonus of a mini-concert among the mayhem.

You would expect nothing less from the National Theatre.

And, by the way, no member of the audience is hurt during the performing of this production.

One Man Two Guvnors runs at The Waterside until Saturday.

For tour dates go to www.onemantwoguvnors.com

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