25th October, 2012
Although this was only the opening night of the UK tour of Nicholas Hytner’s award winning, highly acclaimed farce, itself an adaptation of Goldoni’s A Servant of Two Masters, I still felt that something was missing from it.
Francis Henshall has a problem. Easily confused and very hungry, he gets employed by two men and spends the play trying to keep the two from ever meeting as well as holding up both of his jobs. Rufus Hound takes on the role that James Corden created and although this was my first time (as well as Hound’s), I’ve seen enough clips of the play to feel that Hound didn’t quite do some moments justice. For instance, the scene where Henshall beats himself up lacked pace and didn’t quite build up to anything hilarious. No doubt that Hound will get better as the run goes along and I admit that I never really found the routine funny when Corden did it, Hound didn’t quite live up to his predecessor on the night. However, he coped with the improvisation sequences in the show with aplomb and plays the ‘cheeky chappy’ Henshall very well and also nicely captures his naivety – although that might have been down to first night nerves!
The rest of the cast all brilliantly played their roles. They went all out which is apt as this is a production that goes all out. It is not a parody or pastiche of 1960s, Carry-On style plays, this is a full-out take on that low-art, popular culture style of play. It makes no apologies and has no need to either, with Richard Bean’s script full of as many gags as there are physical ones.
Comparing it to Noises Off, as many have done, I felt that it wasn’t as well-rounded in terms of its plot, perhaps because of its episodic, sketch-like nature. The end of act one is by far the funniest part of the show but is probably not as funny as its London production as the disadvantage of a touring set is that it doesn’t easily allow you to have stairs going under the stage and so therefore no one falls down any stairs in this scene. Instead, a set of double swing doors allows for characters to repeatedly have their faces slammed into it. The stooge in the audience also made for a shocking but hilarious piece of theatre and allows for the style to fully go back to that of old British variety acts. Wonderfully done!
Supported well by a colourful set and costumes as the well as talented skipper band The Craze, One Man, Two Guvnors is not to be missed even though it doesn’t quite take to the comedic heights that I was expecting it to.
The National’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors is currently on its international tour and is in the West End (starring Owain Arthur) at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket booking until September 2013.