One Man, Two Guvnors, King’s Theatre *****
JAMES Corden is Francis, a failed one-man band in 1960s Brighton.
Francis gets a new chance at life when he manages to pick up two servant jobs – one with a woman, disguised as her gay gangster twin brother, the other with her would-be fiancé, her twin’s murderer. Don’t ask.
Not realising that they are looking for each other, Francis strives to keep his two masters separate while grabbing as much food, money and female company as he can.
Corden is absolutely the star of this show, from the applause at his entrance to the applause at his curtain call. He combines character comedy and madcap audience interaction with all the running around you could wish from a West-End farce, and then some. He’s surprisingly agile in a 60s business suit.
There are still lots of laughs for the other actors – they have a huge amount of material to work with, both physical and verbal. Daniel Rigby’s pretentious drama student in love is so popular that the audience laugh in anticipation of his lines, while Suzie Toase as Corden’s love interest has gay icon potential in buckets.
And if ever you need proof that a mute old man carrying soup and opening a bottle of wine is still funny, even after all these years, look no further than Tom Edden’s waiter scene.
The excellent supporting band, The Craze, are a huge part of the evening and seem all set to bring pre-Beatles skiffle music back into business. Picture Mark Kermode in a purple suit playing the washboard, and you’ve got a basic idea.
Another musical masterstroke is the set of increasingly unlikely instruments played by the whole cast. And by unlikely, I mean car horns and nipples.
Although based on a Carlo Goldoni play from the 1700s, this farce doesn’t feel a bit out of date. Writer Richard Bean has swamped it in British humour, but the fundamental story remains the same. If it ain’t broken. . . , as Corden says in the second half.
Run ends October 29