One Man Two Guvnors, Frome Drama Club at the Merlin Theatre

SATURDAY night live? This week you could choose between Strictly Come Dancing,  The X Factor and I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here … or you could go for the real thing – that’s real life not “reality” television – and have a thundering good night out at Frome’s Merlin Theatre.

Frome Drama Club, one of the most talented and versatile amateur groups in the region, is staging an exuberant production of the Richard Bean play which made an international star of James Corden.

One Man Two Guvnors, directed at the National Theatre by Nick Hytner, blew away the cobwebs around the centuries-old tradition of commedia dell’arte and reinvented the genre for the 21st century as a rollicking roller-coaster of mistaken identity, innuendo, pratfalls and improvisation.

The show has so much energy it literally blows the audience into gales of laughter – and the hapless people in the front row who are drawn into the action  get a well-deserved round of applause.

Bean took Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, kept the basic commedia outline but reinvented the setting and the characters in a seedy 1963 Brighton of gangsters and girls, shady lawyers and hapless lovers. Into the mix he stirs Francis Henshall, a Harlequin for our times, a poverty stricken, starving ex-skiffle band musician who takes on two jobs to get enough money to buy food.

Of course, the show stands or falls on the performance of the actor playing Francis Henshall – he has to be a master farceur, always ready for repartee with the audience, a physical clown and an engaging mischief maker – and Andrew Morrison has it in spades. You alternately want to cuddle him and run a mile from the vortex of mayhem that surrounds him!

He is well-supported by Tracey Ashford as the twins Rachel and Roscoe, Giles de Rivaz as Rachel’s ex-public school lover Stanley, Laurie Parnell as the Cockney gangster Charlie Clench, Anna Vowles as his dippy daughter Pauline, Luke Stuart as her ham actor fiance Alan, Ellen Kirkman as his Latin-spouting bent lawyer mother Harriet Dangle, Ange Davis as Dolly, the brains of Charlie’s outfit, and Neil Godwin as Charlie’s old jail-bait mate Lloyd.

A special mention for Aaron Hooper who must be covered in bruises with all his tumbles as the aged shaky waiter Alfie and Simon Joyce as the head waiter, a taxi driver and everybody else.

If you’ve heard of One Man Two Guvnors and wondered if it is as good as they say – go and see Calum Grant’s production of this great farce. If you’ve seen it before, go and see it again. It’s utterly preposterous, inspired, fast moving and hilarious – and unlike all those celluloid performances, this one’s real!


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