One Man, Two Guvnors may only be eight years old, but it feels like it’s been around a lot longer. Since its debut at the National Theatre, Richard Bean’s farcical retelling of Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters has played the West End and Broadway, as well as touring Australia and New Zealand.
Sarah Brigham’s production for Derby Theatre is one of two revivals opening this month. The other is at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich. The play remains as gloriously daft as ever. The character of Francis Henshall requires impeccable comic timing and an easy interaction with the audience. Fortunately, David O’Reilly excels in both regards. There’s a touch of Peter Kay to his performance; he’s capable of reducing an audience to helpless laughter with a simple glance or facial expression.
There’s excellent support from Alice Frankham as the cross-dressing Rachel Crabbe, and George Kemp, as upper-class twit Stanley. TJ Holmes, as Alfie the hapless elderly waiter, provides a masterclass in physical comedy, flinging himself down stairs and into doors.
Neil Irish’s sets are suitably cartoon-like and garish. There are some impressively quick transitions between scenes, swiftly transforming the stage from a gangster’s front room to the exterior of a seaside pub. Brigham keeps things moving at a lick and the production is propelled by musical contributions from skiffle band the Rozzers.
The humour is unashamedly broad and silly, but even those with a deep aversion to farce and slapstick will find its charm hard to resist.