IT might not have the guaranteed box-office appeal of James Corden in the starring role, but the return of the National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guvnors to the Capital is nonetheless a riot of knockabout farce, panto and slapstick, all woven around a core of established theatrical comedy devices.
Gavin Spokes is more than able to fill Corden’s chequered suit as the gluttonous minder Francis Henshall, and is ably supported by an energetic cast. In particular Edward Hancock as wanabee actor Alan Dangle, Alicia Davies as Rachel, and Celebrity Big Brother’s Michael Dylan as the much-battered waiter Alfie.
Not quite stealing the show, but certainly bringing an essential sense of period and pace is a band called The Craze, whose tight Buddy Holly/Everley Brothers-style numbers perfectly place the show in the post-war innocence, just as the Beatles were breaking.
In another nod to theatrical tradition, the musical routines not only echo the great years of Variety. Those in the audience who could remember the Francie and Josie shows of the 50s and 60s would find many similarities.
If it takes a bit to get going, the first half really comes to life with some expert audience participation/manipulation. As members of the audience are brought upon stage for some risqué banter... not all is what it seems.
For those who have not seen the show I won’t spoil it, but it is a tribute to Spokes’ skill that he carries the audience along with it all.
If there is a gripe, it’s that some of the cast, such as ex-EastEnders mainstay Shaun Williamson, are perhaps too used to television and need to project more in order that lines are not lost in a space as big as the Festival Theatre.
Maybe it was just a case of getting used to the venue, but in general the piece might have benefitted from a return to the more intimate King’s where the Corden starred in the show.
But that is only a minor quibble. While not quite side-splitting, One Man, Two Guvnors is a rollicking production, perfect for dragging theatre-goers out of the Winter post-Panto blues.
Runs until Saturday