Telling the story of a buffoonish liar swindling those he should be serving, Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors – adapted from Carlo Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters – is a raucous comedy that’s unlikely to ever lose its resonance.
This version, from director Peter Rowe, is an especially brash, daft production. It’s packed with pratfalls and protracted winks at the audience, swivel-eyed mugging, and hollering, hyperbolic deliveries, the pantomime silliness smoothing over some creaky, cliché-riddled dialogue.
Heading the cast, Philip Tomlin closely models his performance as bumbling valet Francis Henshall after the role’s originator, James Corden. While he energetically nails the bolshy bluster and puerile outbursts, he never really makes the character his own.
Beside him, Richard Leeming packs an extraordinary number of slapstick skits into his turn as long-suffering, grotesquely shambling waiter Alfie. But it’s Josie Dunn who steals the show, here, with a refreshingly restrained performance as disguised twin Rachel, hiding a wealth of warm, romantic optimism under the adopted persona of a ruthless, swaggering East End gangster.
The enthusiastic cast provides live music to distract from the set changes, pulling double duty as a tight and enjoyable skiffle band with a nice line in bouncy, jazzy rock’n’roll. Matt Devitt stands out here, taking a few energising guitar solos, while George Maguire makes a charismatic, playful frontman between enjoyably hammy stints as jilted lover Alan.
This all makes for a light, lively and warm-hearted show, a perfectly pleasant piece of escapist silliness.