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One Man, Two Guvnors review at Nationals Lyttelton Theatre London

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James Corden first came to the National Theatre in 2004 as a youngster as part of the original troupe of The History Boys. Now he has returned as a star to lead the cast of a riotously funny makeover of a classic 18th century Italian comedy by Goldoni, The Servant of Two Masters, relocated to early sixties Brighton. The result is an instant hit that could prove just as big as the Alan Bennett play that originally brought Corden here.

It reunites him with the same director Nicholas Hytner, and together with playwright Richard Bean, One Man, Two Guvnors is a hit three times over for each of them: for the blissful bravura of Corden’s performance as a man trying to juggle two jobs simultaneously, but whose bosses turn out to not only know each other but are romantically entwined; for the comic exuberance of Hytner’s expertly drilled staging; and for the wit of Bean’s script, which provides jokes that are superbly grafted onto a plot of spiralling chaos.

It is like a seaside postcard come to life, brilliantly designed like a pop-up cartoon book by Mark Thompson. It is also the theatrical equivalent of an end-of-pier amusement ride, full of highs and lows, knocks and, of course, knockers (step forward the impressive Suzie Toase). Lots of the more bracing falls are taken with impressive gusto by Tom Edden, virtually stealing the show as an ancient waiter.

But there isn’t a weak link in this superbly cast and committed company, with delightful performances, too, from Jemima Rooper, Oliver Chris, Daniel Rigby, Trevor Laird and Fred Ridgeway, among others, and a fantastic live skiffle band led by composer Grant Olding.

This is the most hilarious comic evening in the theatre since Noises Off, and could easily run as long.

Production Information

National’s Lyttelton Theatre, London, May 17-July 26, with more performances and tour to follow

Richard Bean, based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
Nicholas Hytner
National Theatre
Cast includes
James Corden, Jemima Rooper, Oliver Chris, Fred Ridgeway, Daniel Rigby, Tom Edden
Running time
2hrs 40mins

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