Wednesday, October 5, 2016

One Man, Two Guvnors - People's Theatre - Review

One Man, Two Guvnors
People's Theatre
4th Oct 2016

Pay attention because this plot needs concentration!
The year is 1963, the location is Brighton. Francis Henshall has just been dumped from his skiffle band. In need of food and money he accepts a job as a minder for Roscoe Crabbe, a small time East End hoodlum. Crabbe is in Brighton to attend his own engagement party and collect £6K from his fiancĂ©es father (Charlie "the Duck" Clench). This is something of a surprise to the engagement party since they believed Crabbe to be dead - murdered no less, and they are caught celebrating the engagement of Clench's daughter Pauline someone else. (Well, the sausage rolls were already paid for). Pretty straight forward so far? Wait, there's more. Ever on the lookout to make an easy bob or two Henshall accepts another job with Stanley Stubbers, a well to do crook who is hiding out at the Cricketers Arms, waiting for his girlfriend to arrive with the money for them to escape to Australia. This is where it gets complicated and you need to concentrate, Henshall has to make sure his two bosses don't find out he's moonlighting so he has to keep them apart. However, Stanley Stubbers is hiding out because he is the murderer of Roscoe Crabbe. The girlfriend he is waiting for is none other than Roscoe Crabbe's sister Rachel, who is currently masquerading as her brother in order to get hold of the six grand to pay for their tickets to Australia.

This play is full to the brim with everything from pantomime slapstick, farce, one-liners, and recurring jokes that just get funnier every time we hear them. It begins sedately enough, and if not for the lost skiffle band at the very beginning, we'd be forgiven for thinking this is not a comedy after all. But then Francis Henshall arrives at the party and the tone changes. Richard Gardner as Henshall bursts onto the stage in his checked suit, a stark contrast to the dark suited, somewhat sinister gentlemen at the party. His performance is full of energy and we are swept along with him as he tries in vain to keep his head above water and his two guvnors apart.

The whole play is a joy to watch - from the slapstick humour and asides to audience it has us laughing out loud. We begin to anticipate the jokes, knowing what's coming as Henshall invents his ludicrous stories to cover his tracks and trips at every step.

He is supported by a brilliant cast, Nathan Hussain as the flamboyant would-be actor Alan, and the vacuous Pauline played so well by Emma Jane Richards, Melanie Dagg as the savvy bookkeeper Dolly to name but a few.

Scene changes are cleverly covered by great performances by the skiffle band, with guest appearances by various cast members.

First time director David Downing has done a marvellous job with this play. It moves at a dizzying pace and the timing is spot on.

One Man, Two Guvnors plays till Sat 8th Oct. Come see it - you will chortle.

Denise Sparrowhawk

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