One Man, Two Guvnors is a phenomenon. Originally adapted by Richard Bean from the Italian comedy A Servant of Two Masters for The National theatre in 2011, it received rave reviews and packed audiences resulting in a transfer to the West End and then Broadway and has toured extensively – and now it’s in Highgate, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, brought to us by Tower Theatre Company.
Tower Theatre Company are a well-established theatre group with a prolific production history. They stage up to 18 productions a year and as they say in the programme, must be ‘one of the busiest companies of its kind in the country,’ so I was curious to see what they could do with One Man, Two Guvnors, such a high octane show relying on an excellent cast and an audience who want to be entertained.
After a slightly nervous start, the cast and crew soon got into their stride and began to relax so that we as audience could enjoy the benefit of their hard work and energy. And what an ensemble piece this is. It’s as though Richard Bean chucked everything at the play and it all stuck. There’s drawing room farces scenes, fight scenes, lip-synching to 60’s ballads, a conga, actual singing, audience participation, slapstick and any number of plots that all overlap.
It’s all very simple and yet increasingly complicated, and as you might expect, full of reversals and confusions, but in summary, Frances is desperate for money (and food) and so takes on an extra job, thus becoming a man with two governors. One of his governors is notorious gangster Roscoe, and the other is Stanley, an upper class criminal on the run.
Meanwhile, Pauline was engaged to Roscoe but now she’s marrying Alan and Rosco was dead but actually he’s alive and he’s back, except that Stanley murdered him and he is actually dead, but he does have an identical twin – except that he doesn’t… you get the picture.
Mark Macey playing Frances Henshall works his acting chops off. He’s almost never offstage and the role requires a physical and comedic dexterity that would challenge any actor, and he pulls it off. His charm and his gusto for the role are apparent and his interactions with the audience were assured and often hilarious.
Camilla Fox and Adam Moulder, as Pauline and Alan, make a highly watchable idiotic couple of young lovers and both showcase their comedic talent. Jennifer Quinn is so convincing as Roscoe that when she later presents as Rachel it’s a little unsettling, Edwin de La Renta is a breath of fresh air as Lloyd, and there has to be a special mention for Andy Barrett who as Alfie relishes the extreme physical comedy that he literally dives into and for James Phillips and Lisa Castle who play their roles with delight and had the audience rooting for them.
The whole cast make the most of their characters and even the less carefully drawn characters are drawn back into the plot by the end of the play so that everything makes some kind of terrific sense.
As you might expect on a first night, there were a few small technical hiccups and some of the exits and entrances need to be tightened up so that the pace of the play isn’t lost, but this is a fun play in a great little venue with an appreciative and warm audience. If you’re looking for something to lighten your spirits then grab a ticket and settle down for a night of fun.
Review by Roz Wyllie
One Man, Two Guvnors
by Richard Bean
Directed by Dan Usztan
Evenings at 7.30pm
Tuesday 6th – Saturday 10th October, 2015
Matinée at 3.00 Saturday 10th October, 2015
The Tower Theatre performing
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate
London N6 4BD