Theatre Review: One Man, Two Governors – Theatre Royal Haymarket

one man two governorsIt seems the theatre gods are smiling down on me. They must have heard me lamenting about how little theatre I’ve been able to get to this year due to our focused saving, because out of the blue a friend got in touch and said they had some free tickets to a play which meant last night I got to go to my second show in the space of a week. Hallelujah!!

The play in question was One Man, Two Governors the hilarious comedy by Richard Bean. It is an adaptation of the 1743 commedia dell’arte play A Servant of Two Masters by the Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni.

One Man, Two Governors is set in Brighton in 1963 and centres around Francis Henshall, a man hard up for cash, desperate to know where his next meal is coming from and who is easily confused. Henshall accidentally ends up being the personal minder for two separate employers, one Rosco Crabbe, a well known gangster (of sorts), and Stanley Stubbers a criminal who is fleeing the police. But of course, Rosco is actually Rachel, his sister, disguising herself as her Rosco, who is now dead, in order to retrieve cash that is owed to Rosco so that Rachel can run away with her criminal lover, who is none other than the aforementioned Stanley Stubbers.

As the play unfolds we see a frantic Henshall, completely unaware of the connection and indeed that Rachel is in disguise, desperately trying to keep the two separated so neither one realises he’s taken a job with two employers.

It’s a silly, slapstick comedy play, which are often either way too over the top and put on that they feel strained or borderline lame. Not this one though – we were laughing out loud almost from the moment we were seated, right the way through the end. With a good balance between a structured plot, planned gags, audience participation and improvisation this play had me in stitches and included clever dialogue which, while British, was easily understood and translatable.

This particular cast have had varied reviews, with it being the second cast to play in London after 2011 season and a tour to the US and Australia. Comedian Rufus Hound, who plays Henshall, has had a mixed response and while I can’t compare his performance to that of his predecessor James Corden (of Gavin and Stacey fame) I have to say that any bad review he received was grossly unjust. He was brilliant in the role and had a great response from the audience that I was a part of.

Some of the quirks of 1963 England are captured brilliantly and there is a strong reference to our modern understanding of the world which keeps it light, funny and topical.

If I’m being brutally honest, I would say I wouldn’t have thought of going had I not had access to the spare ticket my friends had, which is largely down to me not knowing much about it before a few days ago. But, if you are up for a show that can make you laugh out loud (a lot), keep you guessing and essentially be your aide to a thoroughly enjoyable night then I encourage you to go along as it is absolutely well worth your while, and worth your money.

A warning though, if you’re not up for being an audience participant then make sure you’re not in the front row.

In short: hilarious and a good night out.

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