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Review of One Man, Two Guvnors' at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

This year I have seen the chaotic feast that is The Play That Goes Wrong three times and its safe to say that I haven't seen anything funnier at the theatre this year (hence three times), however last night I saw the National Theatre's One Man, Two Guvnors' currently on tour. I shall say now that The Play That Goes Wrong is still the funniest play I have seen this year. However One Man, Two Guvnors' gave it quite a close call at times during the blistering two hours plus of high octane entertainment.

It is at first a curious mix of music, mirth and outright slapstick that unlike TPTGW, I didn't initially get. I was also having to deal sitting in the circle (a reasonable distance from the stage), with someone who was eating things that rustled and managing to drown quite a few words out. My annoyance level was quite high so I needed some light relief. Thankfully the rustles didn't last forever and once my hearing had been tuned out of them rustle sounds and I could hear every word, I was captivated with the madness on offer.

Winding backwards, I had done some initial research into the play before coming and it was clear that the show began before it began. So taking our seats early, we were treated to several tunes from the skiffle band The Craze. These were to be a constant and delightful presence throughout the evening and the wonderful "Brighton Line" in particular is still spinning round my head to this moment.

Our first of many sets of the evening is the living room home of Charlie 'the duck' Clench (Barry from Eastenders, sorry Shaun Williamson). Most of our main players for the evening are either present or introduced quickly, including lead Francis Henshall (Gavin Spokes). As the fourth actor to play Francis since the plays inception in 2011, Spokes gives a sparky, lively and very physical performance.

The play features much physical action throughout, some of which even a couple of members of the audience get to feature in with a clever trunk scene. The evening of my viewing this came across very funny and centred mainly around the manliness of the two gents (this could be a regular theme?). Spokes dealt with it well and I am sure that this will always be a hit and miss scene depending on those randoms from the audience.

All of the cast are very watchable, from the buxom and sexually needy Dolly (Emma Barton), to the over the top Alan Dangle (Edward Hancock) "It's the way you stand at an angle as if there's an audience over there." an all strutting and over acting thespian. Also scene stealer extraordinaire Michael Dylan as 87 year old Alfie provides some very physical and skillful moments that are among the funniest of the play.

Writer Richard Bean's script crackles with witty one liners throughout and verbose exchanges of descriptions delivered impeccably, particularly by David Varrey as Harry Dangle and Alicia Davies as Rachel Crabbe. Bean undoubtedly milks as much comedy as he can (maybe sometimes too much) from every situation he can. However when you seen scenes like Henshall's exchange with himself over his two jobs, you cannot help but appreciate it with a huge grin.

The sets themselves are lovely caricatured little vignettes. Fallen straight off them vintage seaside postcards, as has much of the comedy. This is a very British comedy with trousers dropping, public schoolboy jokes and Benny Hill like moments. It is very funny, exceptionally entertaining throughout and a hearty recommendation to all to see as it tours around the country. To those five people near me who didn't return for the second act last night, I fear you may be missing a funny bone or two.

[rating:4.5/5]


Performance reviewed: Monday 22nd September, 2014 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton. 

One Man, Two Guvnors' is at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate) between Monday 22nd September 2014 and Saturday 27th September 2014 and is currently touring until March 2015.
For further details visit the website at http://www.onemantwoguvnors.com/



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