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There are few theatregoing experiences which are so eagerly anticipated and even fewer which leave one stumbling through the theatre doors back into the moonlight with wobbly legs, aching sides and tears of laughter still streaming down thoroughly rosy cheeks. 

Adapted from ‘Arlecchino servitore di due padroni’ (‘A Servant of Two Masters’) by the Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni in 1743, ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ has been re-worked by the comedic genius Richard Bean and replaces the original period Italian setting with Brighton, 1963.

Jodie Prenger as ‘Dolly’ and Owain Arthur as ‘Francis Henshall’

Our story follows the chubby Francis Henshall; a thoroughly confused, lilting Welshman who could be easily mistaken for the love child of Mr. Toad and Tommy Cooper (should that be possible.) As a slave to his ever-rumbling gut, Francis takes on two employers simultaneously in the hope of satisfying his inordinate hunger. Guvnor Number 1. is a local gangster by the name of Rosco Crabbe, formerly engaged to Pauline Clench (now betrothed to outlandish thespian, Alan Dangle.) Guvnor Number 2 is plum-mouthed poshy, Stanley Stubbers. As the drama unfolds, Francis inevitably and with great hilarity, attempts to keep the two Guv’s from meeting. However, as the plot thickens, it transpires that Roscoe is really Rachel Crabbe in disguise; her twin brother Roscoe having been killed by her lover, who is none other than Stanley Stubbers.

Confused? You should be. Never fear, you need not have an eye on any particular ball. What ensues is an uprorious tale of twists and turns with enough buffonery, mischief and clever tomfoolery to produce a honking snort from even the coyest audience member.

With over-dramatic gestures which sweep the entire auditorium, hysterical outbursts, melodramtic chest-beating and the occasional flamboyant skip, Daniel Ings often threatens to steal the show as exaggerated Ac-tor ‘Alan Dangle.’ Ben Mansfield, with his Etonian dress, slicked side-parting, general guffawing, woofing (think Captain Flasheart) and swaggering aplomb also has the audience rolling in the aisles with his incredible take on the silver-spooned toff, Stanley Stubbers.

Daniel Ings as ‘Alan Dangle.’

 

Jodie Prenger as the voluptuous ‘Dolly’ threatens to pop neighbouring eyeballs from their sockets with her magnificent hip-wiggling and delicious flirting while Martin Barrass’ adaptation of the rickety, 87-year old waiter ‘Alfie’who continually appears on the hilarious verge of collapse has the audience gasping in mixed horror and delight throughout. Should that not suffice, you will also be treated to the toe-tapping sounds of skiffle and beat group, ‘The Craze’ who pop up between scenes to tinkle on a variety of instruments including the washboard, car-horns and most excitingly, the spoons.  

Ben Mansfield as ‘Stanley Stubbers’

However, it is Owain Arthur, with his boundless energy, boisterous nature, incredible comic timing and effortless delivery who truly shines as Francis Henshall. As the understudy of original protagonist, James Corden, Owain undeniably had rather large shoes to fill. Yet he manages, from the offset, to pack the role almost to bursting point. Gloriously unfazed by the part’s immense physical demands, Owain throws himself (quite literally) into the role, immediately winning the audiences affection. As he bounds onto the stage in his opening moment, confidently catching a thrown peanut into his open mouth whilst simultaneoulsy falling backwards over an armchair, Owain makes it clear he has stepped into the limelight and is here to stay.

Owain Arthur as ‘Francis Henshall’

This impeccable production encompasses all possible comedic elements; a ludicrous script, superbly executed slapstick, hilarious audience participation and inevitable bedlam. The off-the-cuff quips and improvised one-liners from the cast demonstrate the true flair each of these strong actors possess.

Rarely does a play throw an entire audience into hysterical cackling from the off and lifted the roof so uproariously with such ease. However this phenomenon will only be gracing the boards of the ‘Theatre Royal, Haymarket’ until January 2013, be sure to order your tickets pronto because it’s One Man, Two Guvnors, Five Stars.

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