Review: One Man, Two Guvnors (NT Live)
Here is something a bit different. As I take the long journey downstairs to the sofa, with a
cup of tea in hand, I am ready to experience the theatre from the comfort of my own living room; a odd but liberating feeling. Due to the strange times our world is facing, the National Theatre, along with many other organisations across the world, are uploading their productions online for you to enjoy and put a smile on your face. Richard Bean’s
One Man, Two Guvnors does not disappoint.
Set in Brighton in 1963, this hilarious adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s ‘The Servant of Two
Masters’ stars James Corden in the role of Francis Henshall, minder of Roscoe
Crabbe, who is secretly Roscoe’s sister Rachel undercover. Francis foolishly picks up a second job as minder of Stanley Stubbers – and it all goes crazy from there as we watch him struggle to keep his two Guvnors apart.
Based on the original commedia character of Harlequin, Corden’s portrayal of Francis sticks incredibly well to its roots, from his costume to his clumsiness, Bean keeps the attributes of each character close to what Goldoni intended. Although Corden is a kind of
marmite figure these days within UK opinion, nobody can disagree that his performance is anything but brilliant. Having studied the original piece of commedia dell’arte for my A-Level Theatre, I was eager to compare the adapted characters which is executed incredibly throughout the 160-minute production.
The true highlight is Suzie Toase with her performance of the feminist, witty character of Dolly, bookkeeper to a retired gangster. Flirtatious and sharp with an impressive beehive, Toase aligns perfectly with her original commedia character of Columbina, providing the most intelligence on the stage.
One Man, Two Guvnors smoothly adds an exciting tone with songs, by Grant Olding, at every scene change, perfectly setting the 60s atmosphere. We even see the characters join in and show their various talents, trust me James Corden with a Xylophone, it’s something you don’t want to miss. Audience participation also adds some twists to the show, and with one particular audience member, there’s a true element of surprise, but you’ll need to watch this comedy gold to find out.
Although staged in 2011, I am so immersed that I feel as though I am sitting right in the stalls - but maybe it was a good thing that I’m not, as I am in my pyjamas!
One Man, Two Guvnors is available on to stream on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel until 7pm UK time on Thursday 9 April. Link available here.
Photo: Johan Persson.