Theatre Review: One Man, Two Guvnors

The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 21st February 2015
By Sibylle Sehl

One Man, Two Guvnors, cast in Brighton in the 1960s, tells the story of Francis, who, out of lack of liquidity, accepts two jobs which leads him to become entangled in a series of confusing events. Working for Rachael, who is actually disguised as her recently murdered twin brother Roscoe, he is trusted with delivering her letters that he unfortunately mixes up with the letters for Stanley Stabbers, the long love of Rachael Crabbes who is his second Guvnor. As he is working for both of them at the same time, Francis has to try and avoid an encounter of the two which leads to more chaos and laughter.

With a beautifully arranged stage design and great lighting, this production came to life and made it an absolute pleasure to watch. The characters were very well developed and especially the role of Francis was played incredibly well by Gavin Spokes who both engaged his audience and amused them through his funny jokes and chaotic behaviour as he tried to keep both of his guvnors apart. However, it was not only Francis that made for a hilarious production of One Man, Two Guvnors but also the old and jittering waiter Alfie that kept walking into doors and had his pacemaker continuously reset by the rest of the cast resulting in him running aimlessly around the stage. Furthermore, the play was enriched by portraying a range of different characters, from a feckless and naïve Paula, to a feminist Dolly to a clever and quick-witted Rachael. Apart from a lawyer who was totally incomprehensible, the rest of the ensemble provided a storyline that was easy to follow.

Filled with a large portion of slapstick comedy, One Man, Two Guvnors had the audience laughing for minutes at a time. When hungry Francis rhetorically asked the audience for a sandwich, a man in the audience held up a hummus sandwich, resulting in Francis laughing. It remained a mystery whether this part of the play was staged or not, however it did not make the situation any less amusing. The restaurant scene, in which Francis tried to serve both guvnors their food whilst also keeping them separated, appeared to be huge challenge which resulted in a lot of jokes and confusion as well as in Francis spitting soup and throwing food on stage. His simple clownish behaviour was slapstick at its best. The appearance of Christine Patterson, an audience member, also led to confusion as she had to continuously hide behind statues and under tables to not reveal herself and being detected by Roscoe and Stanley before being put out by a fire extinguisher live on stage.

However, it was not only the slapstick behaviour and jokes within One Man, Two Guvnors which made it such a funny and likeable production, but also the jolly skiffle music played between scenes with washboards, old microphones and a double bass. The style of music complemented the play perfectly and was furthermore enriched by appearances of the actors such as “artist” Alan who clapped on his naked belly to accompany the washboard sounds.

The utterly charming and hilarious cast as well as the interludes of the skiffle music being played live on stage created a unique play which was truly enjoyable and a pleasure to watch.