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One Man, Two Guvnors at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | Review

One Man, Two Guvnors
One Man, Two Guvnors

A good mix of music, comedy, dramatization and storytelling make for an enjoyable and eclectic evening. Set in 1963, One Man, Two Guvnors isn’t, as the title might suggest, a straightforward three-hander, and in all the twists and turns of the plot, there’s much to keep audiences engaged throughout. I must qualify this, however – at the performance I attended, not every punchline landed with the raucous reactions from the audience that I recall from the National Theatre production of the show in 2011. Perhaps it is one of the relatively few plays that benefits from hammed up performances, but ultimately there’s not much else to fault in a slick and ever engaging production.

Francis Henshall (David O’Reilly) demolishes the proverbial fourth wall (your reviewer found himself sat further back than he usually would be at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, thus ensuring enjoyment of proceedings undisturbed), to the point of bringing up front row audience members on stage. There was a good rapport with the audience overall, and the comic timing was spot on.

The scene changes may not be the slickest, but they are more than sufficiently covered by music from ‘The Rozzers Skiffle Band’, who also play before the show starts proper, and again before the second act gets underway. There are fifteen songs in all throughout the evening (don’t let that put you off – some of them are quite short), and most of the cast contributes in one way or another, with the inclusion of a xylophone, a steel drum and even a ladies’ ensemble at one point.

Charlie ‘The Duck’ Clench (David Cardy) holds a celebration in honour of the engagement of his daughter Pauline (Samantha Hull), an arguably stereotypically dim-witted young lady – as Charlie puts it, “They’ve tried but they can’t make bricks thicker” – to Alan Dangle (Jack Brett). Alan is one of those wannabe thespians who takes great pleasure in maximising everything he says to the greatest dramatic effect possible, even if – or rather especially if – this means others around him have no idea what he’s really saying. The ‘two guvnors’ of the show’s title are Rachel Crabbe (Alice Frankham) and Stanley Stubbers (George Kemp). The former dresses as a man for much of the show for reasons that are too much of a spoiler to explain here – suffice to say that the unconvincing disguise is quite deliberate – and the latter is a gloriously well-spoken toff.

Supporting roles are quite brilliant. TJ Holmes as Alfie puts in some excellent physicality into his role as an octogenarian waiter with a pacemaker, adjusted accordingly, either by Gareth (Craig Armstrong), the head butler, or otherwise by Francis. In the second half much humour is to be found both in Alfie’s movements and in Francis getting into an increasingly deeper muddle, attempting to serve his two guvnors lunch at the same time whilst attempting to feed himself.

For those of us who managed to catch the National Theatre production though, there seemed to be (at least for me) a missed opportunity to be more inventive – it all came across as too similar to that previous production to properly distinguish this one as a hallmark of creativity. In the end, though, there’s never a dull moment in this exuberant and entertaining production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaeng

Featuring a side-splitting mix of slapstick comedy, farce and live music by a talented skiffle band, One Man, Two Guvnors is one great night out!

After being fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall is skint and hungry. He manages to secure a new job as a minder for small time gangster Roscoe Crabbe. What Francis doesn’t know, is his new guvnor is really Roscoe’s sister Rachel in disguise, as her own dead brother, who has been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.

To further complicate things, Francis nabs a second job working for that very Stanley Stubbers who is hiding from the police.

All Francis has to do is ensure his two guvnors don’t meet. What could go wrong?

Cast + Creatives
Craig Armstrong – Gareth
Jack Brett – Alan
Dominic Gee Burch – Band
David Cardy – Charlie
Duane Hanniba – Lloyd
Alice Frankham – Rachel
TJ Holmes – Alfie
Samantha Hull – Pauline
Oraine Johnson – Band
George Kemp – Stanley
David O’Reilly – Francis
Jay Osborne – Band
Ivan Stott – Harry
Rosie Strobel – Dolly
Tomas Wolstenhome – Band

Creative
Written by Richard Bean
Songs by Grant Olding
Directed by Sarah Brigham
Musical Supervisor – Kelvin Towse
Designer – Neil Irish
Lighting Designer – Tim Skelly

One Man, Two Guvnors
by Richard Bean
Based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
Songs by Grant Olding
2 -19 Oct 2019
https://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/

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