MANY people have seen Richard Bean’s multi-award winning One Man, Two Guvnors, the show that catapulted James Corden to international fame and has been seen both at the National Theatre and by satellite broadcast around the world.
But they do NOT include Dennis Barwell, who missed seeing the original and was induced to take on the show after his memorable production of A Servant of Two Masters at Pitney 15 years ago.
So Dennis came fresh to Bean’s updating of the classic Goldoni commedia dell’arte, and he found layers of subtlety and comedy possibilities that are often missing from the full-throttle, in-your-face, run-off-your-feet National Theatre production.
Staged at Strode Theatre in Street until 11th November, Street Theatre has gathered a stunning cast for the show, and at its centre is Paul Townsend as out-of-work skiffle player Francis Henshall. He is the man who has found himself with two bosses, just as he was in the Goldoni production in 2002. And backing him up are hilariously funny performances notably from Lewis Elson as upper class twit Stanley Stubbers, Charlie Wood as the dumb Pauline Clench, Neil Howiantz as lawyer-to-the-criminal community Harry Dangle, Jane Sayer as Dolly the bookkeeper and Will Raistrick making his stage debut as Lloyd Boateng, probably the only “decent” character in the play.
Set in Brighton in 1963, we join the action as Francis, penniless and famished, agrees to work for Roscoe Crabbe. What he doesn’t realise is that the diminutive Ringo Starr lookalike is not Roscoe (who is dead) but his twin sister Rachel.
Unpaid and ravenous, Francis also agrees to work for Stanley Stubbers, boyfriend of Rachel and murderer of Roscoe.
Our hero has to keep his employers apart, and that’s not easy since they are both staying, incognito, in the same hotel.
Roscoe/Rachel is in Brighton to marry Pauline, daughter of Charlie “The Duck” Clench (convincingly brought to life by Bruce Bourquin), and thus get some promised spondulicks and make a getaway with Stanley. Pauline wants to marry her thespian enamorata Alan, much given to declamation (well done Gareth!)
Confused ? … Well that’s the intention.
As well as some outstanding physical comedy and ingenious pratfalls, the Street Theatre production shines the spotlight on the very clever allusions to the origins of the theatrical genre, the technical definition of twins and the opportunity to link the still-remembered pop songs of the early 60s to the themes of the play. Sing on Lonnie, Adam and Tommy!
All this, a live skiffle band on stage and a large slice of political incorrectness that’s a refreshing change from fashionable fragility.
It’s a terrific show, building to side-splitting climaxes as the story unfolds. Not to be missed.