‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by December 9, 2016

‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ was written in 2011, by English playwright and psychology graduate, Richard Bean. Born in East Hull, 60 years ago, Richard spent a few years as a stand-up comic being part of the team nominated for a Writers Guild Award. His first full-length play ‘Of Rats and Men’ was nominated for a Sony Award.

This play is based on the most famous of Carlo Goldoni’s works, ‘A Servant of Two Masters’, written in the 1740s. ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ went on to win the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award in 2011, then Best New Play in the Evening Standard Awards also in 2011.

The Melville Theatre Company is presenting this hilarious, madcap two-hour play, and it can be seen nightly until Saturday 10th December, at the Melville Theatre, on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway in Melville.

 

The time is 1963, in Brighton on the south coast of England. The main scene is the sitting room of Charlie’s house, but with the movement of the odd flat, it was transformed into the dining room of the local hostelry. The set construction was led by Ross Bertinshaw, who was aided by Don Callison, along with Lars and Jacob Jensen. The whole cast ‘mucked in’ with the painting of the set.

There were several involved scene changes, but stage manager, Garry Davies assisted by Ross Bertinshaw and Jeff Hansen were quick and efficient. The lighting design could have been simple, but designer Lars Jensen had some nice extra touches. Vanessa Jensen operated the lighting and sound desks.

 

         Thanks to the skills of bent solicitor, Harry Dangle (Peter Neaves), cockney criminal, Charlie Clench (Kim Taylor) has been released from prison – yet again. Now his Jamaican minder, Lloyd (Amri Mrisho), is guarding him.

         In Charlie’s house, there is an engagement party. Charlie’s beautiful but brainless daughter, Pauline (Pip Tompson) was in love with Rosko, but he was discovered murdered by Stanley (Sean Bullock). So Pauline has found a new love, and is about to marry the solicitor’s son, the ham actor and drama queen, Alan Dangle (Lachlan Stewart).

         The doorbell rings and a rotund character, Francis Henshall (Chris Bedding) enters. He is Harry’s odd job man, whose appetite for food is insatiable. Francis spots Charlie’s secretary, Dolly (Victoria Dixon) and immediately there is a love bond. As the party progresses, the dead boyfriend, Rosko arrives – it is in fact his twin sister, Rachel (Sarah Christiner) dressed in Rosko’s suit.

       The group move by taxi, (driver Jeff Hansen) to a private room in the local pub. On the way, they encounter a nervous old lady (Michelle Sharp) and are chased by a policeman (Ross Bertinshaw). At the venue, smart waiter, Gareth (Warren McGrath) and his ancient, accident-prone assistant, Alfie (Don Callison), are serving cordon bleu food for the celebration. The barman (Garry Davies) tries to deal with the demand for drinks.

       Will love blossom? Will anyone ever get married?

 

The soft background music was arranged and played by Josiah Pad. The costumes, and there were a few unusual ones, were crafted by Michelle Sharp who was assisted by Barbara Lovell.

With Francis’s demand for food, Cally Zanik was kept busy with the preparation of multiple courses for the dining scene.

The play is refreshingly different. It is a blend of farce, slapstick, pantomime and is partly in the style of a series of plays (‘The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate‘) which I cannot stand. With the actors playing straight to the audience, and even becoming slightly involved with them, this was a new kind of humour.

Director, Vanessa Jensen was so lucky in getting Chris Bedding to play the part of Francis. Chris, who is a man of the cloth – no, he is not a window cleaner – specialises in impromptu comedy, where the comedians have to think rapidly as events unfold. He was magnificent in this play, and had all of the body actions. He carried the show. A good comedian often requires a good ‘feed’ man, and the rest of the cast all excelled with their lines and timing. Could Chris be nominated for next year’s Finleys?

There were numerous styles of dialogue for the very different interesting characters; for Pauline she was superb as the dumb daughter, and then there was Rachel who had to deliver a lengthy explanation, in medical terms, of her zygotic structure – hilarious. Poor Alfie must have to lie down for a few hours after every performance.

This show was one constant belly laugh from beginning to end.

The word went rapidly around as to how extremely funny this play is. Every house has been fully booked, and with the demand is still being there, I wish there was another week.