Friday, October 07, 2011

'One Man, Two Guvnors' by Richard Bean

7 October 2011

On Saturday we made a first visit to the lovely Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury to see the National Theatre production of ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ by Richard Bean. Based on Carlo Goldoni’s 1746 play ‘The Servant of Two Masters’, this production has been a big commercial hit for the National Theatre and a star vehicle for James Corden, reunited with the director Nicholas Hytner for the first time since ‘The History Boys’. Set in Brighton in 1963, ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ is broad tongue-in-cheek comedy played for laughs but it’s very well done and extremely funny. The Waterside Theatre was completely sold out and much of the audiences was in stitches throughout. There was plenty of audience participation and ad-libbing, some great physical comedy and a wonderful cast. It is interesting to note that Goldoni was criticised for taking the usually completely improvised Commedia dell’Arte tradition and writing it down but, in doing so, he succeeded in preserving the style for centuries. The action of ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ is supplemented by a four-piece Beatles-style band (playing original songs by Grant Olding) who spring from the orchestra pit to play in front of the curtains during each scene change. They are joined, in turn, by a series of members of the cast (including Corden on xylophone) who perform a variety of party-pieces. James Corden is very funny and clearly the star of the show but Oliver Chris also stood out as the public-school educated bully. It was an excellent, feel-good evening in the theatre.

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