ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS
by Richard Bean based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni Literal translation by Francesca Manfrin.
Tour to 2 February 2013.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 October at Curve Leicester.
Physical comedy and quick-fire witty dialogue makes a new man of Goldoni’s Servant.
It’s the funniest comedy seen on the English stage for years (majority verdict); it’s the worst play around (tiny minority report). Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors is certainly an ingenious adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th-century comedy The Servant of Two Masters.
Goldoni’s play might be seen as a warning to greedy plebs, showing a hungry servant tying himself in knots simultaneously serving meals, in adjacent dining-rooms, to different employers he’s acquired.
And Francis, as Goldoni’s Truffaldino becomes in his story’s transfer to 1963 Brighton, overtaxes his mind with missives for, and the identical luggage of, his bosses. He needs to be careful; Goldoni’s background of the lover who’s killed his girl’s brother is here entangled with London gangland.
Things are changing all around; the clean-cut skiffle group is followed by a Caribbean steel-band (part of). Sex is suspended between 1950s attitudes and occasional references to women’s lib.
Hindsight and anachronism make some of the easiest jokes, and the theatre references are awkwardly self-conscious, while Bean is clearly fond of the running-gag: most characters have one.
For the show revels in artificiality. Designer Mark Thompson recalls both seaside-postcards and 18th-century sliding sets in his street scene, while audience participation develops into faux-audience participation. (And, possibly for one night only, unexpected audience participation with an offered sandwich leading to improvisation – the actor whom it cost two lines making up for it in visual comedy).
In a male world, Frances’ beloved Dolly just about gets her foot (and other protuberances) in the door. Edward Bennett brings a suavity made funnier by taking public-school self-confidence so seriously, while Peter Caulfield has a kind of running-cameo as doddery waiter Alfie, meeting old jokes about age and infirmity, while becoming the butt of every door and fist, with physical agility in swaying, sliding and sinking slowly to the ground.
But it’s the one man who makes or breaks the evening. Rufus Hound has an appealing, pleading air combined with a pace that keeps the laughter flowing. It’s possible to appreciate the minority view, but he ensures the ‘ayes’ will have it for some time yet.
Dolly: Amy Booth-Steel/Jodie Prenger.
Lloyd Boateng: Mark Monero.
Charlie “the Duck” Clench: Colin Mace.
Pauline Clench: Kellie Shirley.
Harry Dangle: Nick Cavaliere.
Alan Dangle: Leon Williams.
Francis Henshall: Rufus Hound/Owain Arthur.
Rachel Crabbe: Rosie Wyatt.
Stanley Stubbers: Edward Bennett.
Gareth: Matthew Woodyatt.
Alfie: Peter Caulfield.
Ensemble: Sabrina Carter, Alicia Davies, Mark Jackson, Alan Pearson, Seun Shote, Russell Wilcox.
Director: Nicholas Hytner.
Physical Comedy Director: Cal McCrystal.
Designer: Mark Thompson.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Paul Arditti.
Music/Songs: Grant Olding.
Choreographer/revival director: Adam Penfold.
Company Voice work: Jacquie Crago.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Associate designer: Jonathan Allen.
Associate lighting: Tom Snell.
Associate costume: Poppy Hall.
25 Oct-3 Nov Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.15pm Curve Leicester 0116 242 3595 www.curveonline.co.uk
6-10 Nov 7.30pm M at Thu 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne 0191 088448 112121 www.theatreroyal.co.uk
13-17 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Glasgow 0844 871 7627 www.atgtickets.com/venues/Theatre-Royal-Glasgow
20-24 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Grand Opera House Belfast 028 9024 1919 www.goh.co.uk
27 Nov-1 Dec 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Blackpool Grand 01253 743343 www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk
4-8 Dec 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm Captioned Wed Theatre Royal Norwich 01603 630000 www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
11-15 Dec 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Grand Theatre and Opera House Leeds 0844 848 2700 www.leedsgrandtheatre.com
2-5 Jan 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Audio-described Sat 2pm (+ Touch Tour 12.30pm) Captioned Fri Venue Cymru Llandudno 01492 872000 www.venuecymru.co.uk
8-19 Jan Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Audio-described 19 Jan 2pm (+ Touch Tour 12.30pm) Captioned 18 Jan The Lowry Salford 0843 208 6000 www.the lowry.com
22-26 Jan 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff (Donald Gordon Theatre) 029 2063 6464 www.wmc.org.uk
29 Jan-2 Feb 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Nottingham 0115 9889 5555 www.trch.co.uk