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Review: One Man, Two Guvnors, Dartford’s Orchard Theatre, Monday, August 4
“This is a National Theatre production, not a bloody panto,” cried star Gavin Spokes at a member of the audience during the opening night of One Man, Two Guvnors.
The reason for his outburst, midscene as protagonist Francis Henshall, was a sandwich. Yep, a sandwich. But to elaborate much more would be to give away too much.
For this universally-acclaimed touring production of Richard Bean’s hit West End show is a masterclass in the art of audience participation – with everyone present left not quite sure about how much is pre-prepared and how much spontaneous but never the less finding it hilarious throughout.
One Man, Two Guvnors is a quintessentially British comedy but to pigeon hole it any further is to do it an injustice.
Based on Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century play the Servant of Two Masters, it is part musical, but without any big numbers, and part play, but with a chaotic plotline.
Set in 1960s Brighton, it centres on Francis Henshall, who is employed by two bosses, each with no knowledge of the other.
It just so happens they know each other very well. One is Rachel, played by Alicia Davies, who is disguised as her dead twin brother. The other is the achingly-posh boarding school fodder Stanley, her lover, played by Patrick Warner, who killed said brother and has gone into hiding.
With musical numbers interspersed by a Buddy Holly-style band, the show is delightful anarchy, riddled with slapstick and, ironically, quite panto in style, owing to its audience participation.
It is not what you would expect from something given such glowing reviews from across the theatre-writing spectrum.
Star of the show Spokes is flanked on the show poster by EastEnders alumni Shaun Williamson (Barry, also from Extras) and Emma Barton (remember Honey?) but the production is truly a team effort, with each actor considered a star by the end.
The only thing to say with absolute certainty is it is incredibly funny – at times outrageously so.
One Man, Two Guvnors runs at the Orchard Theatre until Saturday, August 9. Visit www.orchardtheatre.co.uk.
It is then at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre from Monday, September 29 to Saturday, October 4. Visit www.marlowetheatre.com.
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