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One Man, Two Guvnors

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Gale-force laughter is set to batter the UK and Ireland over the next 10 months as the National Theatre’s award-winning production of Richard Bean’s The Servant of Two Masters hits the road for the third time. Indeed, some of the belly laughs generated by the new cast are so cyclonic that the show’s 37 tour venues ought to be insuring themselves against structural damage.

Director Nicholas Hytner’s original staging, neatly trimmed by tour director Adam Penford, still celebrates virtually every popular theatrical comedy device ever devised, while Cal McCrystal’s precision-honed knockabout choreography retains the power to propel the show’s farcical encounters to the outer limits of slapstick heaven.

Gavin Spokes, at the hub of Bean’s deliciously madcap plot as ever-hungry two-job chancer Francis Henshall, exudes a chubby Tweedledum cheekiness while pitching the physical clowning and audience participation just right.

The comedy also flows fast thanks to an ensemble cast giving the play’s two-dimensional cartoonish characters a fresh three-dimensional solidity, including Alicia Davies as Rachel Crabbe impersonating her dead twin brother in male drag, Edward Hancock’s buffoonish thespian, Shaun Williamson as poker-faced crim Charlie Clench and Michael Dylan as fall-guy Alfie, the geriatric waiter with pacemaker malfunction.

It’s a shame that the plot-bound Act II doesn’t match up to the flat-out fun of the first. The scripted corpsing is over-milked too, and the stooges planted in the stalls are a bit of a cheat. But judging by the laughter it generates this new touring production is already an unstoppable farce of nature.

One Man Two Guvnors on tour

Roger Foss

  • Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
  • May 16-24, then touring until March 21, 2015
  • Author: Richard Bean
  • Directors: Nicholas Hytner, Adam Penford
  • Producer: National Theatre
  • Cast includes: Jasmyn Banks, Alicia Davies, Gavin Spokes, Patrick Warner, Shaun Williamson
  • Running time: 2hrs 25mins
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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.