by Richard Bean based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni literal translation by Francesca Manfrin

Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 19 September (performances sold out).
Captioned 24 July.
then tour to 29 October 2011.
Runs: 2hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 14June.

Hugely entertaining.
Over the years, Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters (1746) has appeared in any number of styles and variations. Many years ago, in Scotland, Russell Hunter led an inspired Edinburgh Royal Lyceum team in a hysterical broad Scottish version.

Richard Bean, surely one of our naughtiest, unashamedly politically incorrect but funniest comic writers has found an equally inspired setting for his modern day version – retro early 1960s Brighton. End-of-the-pier Donald McGill postcards, slapstick, a touch of Frankie Howerd and you’ll get a glimmer of what’s on show here.

It won’t tell you everything because so much, in keeping with the spirit of commedia dell arte behind Goldoni, comes out of James Corden’s gob-smackingly sharp-witted improvisation skills as your man with two guvnors. Sitting in the front row should have `danger zone’ on the tickets. His ebullience knows no bounds and takes the meaning of audience participation into a whole new area.

Such spontaneity is perhaps one reason why the National have found it impossible to translate for visually impaired audiences. If you can’t hear the jokes at least with captions you can see where the visual humour is coming from. But if you can’t see, you’re going to miss a lot. A sad loss for those audiences.

Notwithstanding that, Bean’s conjuration of love, murder and small-time villainy on the English south coast defies belief but supplies a backbone that indeed, as if unwilling to let go a particularly beloved friend, he and director Nicholas Hytner are unwilling to end. The camped up (and ethically dubious) happy ending – which like much, when you stand back and analyse the whole production’s comic source, draws its comedy from cruelty and to an extent, misogyny – takes a long time in coming.

All the same, for most of the time, I laughed like a drain. I’ve seldom heard a pensionable National Theatre audience respond so wholeheartedly. A marvellous ensemble with Grant Olding’s fantastic skiffle-cum-Beatles combo supplying inter-act `period’ music provide a brilliant backdrop to Corden’s giggling, food-obsessed manservant whilst Tom Edden’s decrepit but brilliantly agile ageing waiter, Alfie, is a show stopper.

Dolly: Suzie Toase.
Lloyd Boateng: Trevor Laird.
Charlie `the Duck’ Clench: Fred Ridgeway.
Pauline Clench: Claire Lams.
Harry Dangle: Martyn Ellis.
Alan Dangle: Daniel Rigby.
Francis Henshall: James Corden.
Rachel Crabbe: Jemima Rooper.
Stanley Stubbers: Oliver Chris.
Gareth: David Benson.
Alfie: Tom Edden.
Ensemble: Polly Conway, Jolyon Dixon, Derek Elroy, Paul Lancaster, Fergus March, Gareth Mason, Clare Thomson.

Director: Nicholas Hytner.
Designer: Mark Thompson.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Paul Arditti.
Music: Grant Olding.
Digital Artist: Tim Blazdell.
Choreographer: Adam Penford.
Company Voice work: Kate Godfrey.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Associate director: Cal McCrystal.

The premiere of One Man, Two Guvnors was in the Lyttelton Theatre, London on 24 May 2011.

27 Sept-1 Oct 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Waterside Theatre Aylesbury 0844 871 7607
4-8 Oct 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Plymouth 01752 230440
11-15 Oct 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm The Lowry Salford (Lyric Theatre) 0843 208 6000
18-22 Oct 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham 0844 847 2302
25-29 Oct 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Audio-described Sat 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm) BSL Signed Sat 2.30pm Captioned Thu King’s Theatre Edinburgh 0131 529 6000

2011-06-16 12:21:33

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