REVIEW: One Man Two Guvnors, Sunderland Empire, until Saturday, January 24

ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS by Bean,                      ,Author - Richard Bean, Director - Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Mark Thompson, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, Tour 2014, Credit: Johan Persson - www.perssonphotography.com /
ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS by Bean, ,Author - Richard Bean, Director - Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Mark Thompson, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, Tour 2014, Credit: Johan Persson - www.perssonphotography.com /
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IT’S been hailed as the “funniest show on the planet”. Granted, my first experience of this comedy play certainly had me chuckling, but it didn’t have me rolling in the aisles with laughter.

The opening scenes lacked a little pace as we’re introduced to a host of well-drawn characters. It’s a bit of a bonkers story, but then this is a bonkers show.

It centres around Francis Henshall who, fired from his skiffle band, becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe. But Roscoe is really Rachel, posing as her own dead brother – who’s been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers. Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a job with Stanley Stubbers – but to prevent discovery, he must keep his two guvnors apart.

Are you keeping up? It may take a while for those unfamiliar with the tale to get the gist, but it starts to unfold nicely once the play warms up.

As the farce begins to gallop along it lends itself well to a blend of silliness, slapstick and satire and main man Gavin Spokes, as Francis, does a great job of steering the play.

The stand out moments of the night were the physical comedy as he hurls and flings himself about the stage in a bid to ensure he keeps his two jobs. Gavin must have more than a bruise or two at the end of each show!

Francis is an engaging chap and it seems like you’re chatting to an old friend when he bursts through the fourth wall to bring the audience into the show. Some may have been stooges, but you can’t help but lap it up.

Though Spokes is the lynch pin of the show, the rest of the cast are also a talented bunch.

Alicia Davies catches your attention and doesn’t let go as she flits between playing both lovable rogue Roscoe Crabbe and his love-struck sister Rachel.

Hats off too to Michael Dylan as doddery waiter Alfie. Poor old Alfie gets pinned to walls, doors slammed in his face, bent over backwards - and it’s hilarious. This scene, in which Francis attempts to serve both masters dinner, is a rolleroaster of chuckles.

The second act doesn’t shine quite so brightly, but there’s still some tickling of ribs thanks to Edward Hancock as daft actor ‘luvvie’ Alan Dangle and his lunging dramatics.