Think Boeing Boeing meets Fawlty Towers meets The 39 Steps meets Twelfth Night. Throw in some songs and slapstick and you have One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean, an English adaptation of the Italian Comedy, The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. The premise is as it sounds; one man simultaneously working for two employers and the resulting chaos that ensues.
Francis Henshall is in desperate need of some cash. Fortunately he is imminently hired as an employee by an upper class gentleman named Stanley Stubbers, who is really a criminal in disguise as Dustin Pubsign. He is then quickly hired by another employee, a woman named Rachel Crabbe, who is in disguise as her deceased gangster brother Roscoe Crabbe. The two employers are in love, attempting to claim debts en route to reuniting. Francis makes this impossible however, hiding the fact he is working for both to ensure his continued employment (and full stomach!).
Energetic performances are given by the entire ensemble whose characters make up the families of the deceased Roscoe’s fiancée and her new husband to be. Live Music is interspersed throughout the production in the classic style of 1960’s English Rock ‘n’ Roll. The band is wonderful, encompassing all of the best loved qualities of The Beatles and playing to an enthusiastic audience during all performance breaks. Improvised scenes likewise are an integral part of the show, pulling volunteer audience members up to the stage and delighting a shocked and surprised audience with their outrageous antics.
One would nearly believe Director David Mackay doesn’t like beloved lead Andrew McNee, judging by the sheer physical torment he puts him through. Stomach clenching stress, numerous fists to the body, garbage can lids slammed in face, body flips on stage… it is an impressive and hilarious display of physical comedy by McNee which only serves to highlight the comedy of the play. The production is an exceptionally physical one all round, requiring a great deal of circus like maneuvers, stage combat fighting, and stunts.
The physicality of the show, moreover nearly every aspect of the show, is wholly and ridiculously over the top; a feature the audience simply must accept and embrace throughout. And it is precisely because of this exaggerated humour, this Commedia dell’arte style, that you will not make it through without many a laugh out loud.
One Man, Two Guvnors plays at the Arts Club Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until Feb 22nd